Students work to solve a pressing problem at EHS—in just six hours

Theo Teske, page editor

On Saturday, Jan. 26, students gathered at the high school to participate in “Sparkathon,” an activity in which teams of two to six people work together to come up with a solution to a contemporary issue. The problem: how stress is harming the emotional health of Edina High School students.

While Sparkathon is a nation-wide program, it is relatively new, with Edina serving as one of the first locations at which it has been held. A different problem is posed at each Sparkathon event, so teams need to think quickly, as they are only given six hours to think through and present their solutions.

The event at Edina was spearheaded by junior Parii Bafna. “My family friend’s son started Sparkathon at his college, Pomona, so we met up in LA and he gave me everything I needed to know. From there I took it up,” Bafna said. Bafna had been planning Sparkathon for some time. “I started talking to Beaton over the summer and I saw it through until it started,” Bafna said.

Bafna wasn’t alone in planning the event. She enlisted the help of fellow juniors Lindsey McKhann, Isabel Melton, and Phoebe Taiwo. “We use each other as a whiteboard to spring ideas off each other so it can be successful for students and the administration. Parii was really good at delegating tasks,” Melton said.

Taiwo served as outreach manager, organizing sponsorships and awareness about the event. “I helped Parii put it all together. I was the outreach manager so I helped with the sponsorship from 3M. I also helped get [the word] out and did a lot of meetings to make sure everything came together,” Taiwo said.

McKhann was an event coordinator, and she became involved later in the process. “Parii was working on it while we were studying together so she brought me on board to help with some last minute things,” McKhann said.

Five teams competed at the event, which Principal Beaton deemed a success. A panel of judges consisting of Principal Beaton, Susan Tennyson, who is the strategic planner for the district, and Oyebode Taiwo, corporate medical director at 3M, deliberated on the solutions presented. The winning team proposed a solution which would add an app to the Edina Schools Portal enabling students to conference with peer tutors and teachers outside of normal school hours.

Although not every team could win, Sparkathon is unique in that it teaches students to work together, making it valuable for everyone who participated. “I think collaboration is a huge skill that’s needed in the future at companies and college. It’s not a skill that’s readily taught to students. I think Sparkathon is a great way to teach that collaboration to students,” Melton said.

Ultimately, the emphasis on teamwork is what made Sparkathon meaningful for those involved in planning it. “Watching all the teams embrace each other, especially teams that didn’t know each other before, and combine their vision to put something together was really great,” McKhann said.