FERGUSON COMMUNITY EMPOWERMENT CENTER’S VERONICA EDWARDS CAPTURES “GRACE UNDER FIRE” LANTERN AWARD FOR SPARK ACADEMY WORK
Ferguson Community Empowerment Center’s Veronica Edwards received an award Monday from a Salvation Army podcast, recognizing her work as Spark Academy Program Director.
Edwards’ Grace Under Fire Award was part of the Lantern Awards, put on by the Barracks Podcast. It was given to an individual who persevered through extreme difficulty, including the wavering of Spark’s status with COVID-19, with kindness and respect for others.
In an interview after receiving the award, Edwards said, “Spark Academy absolutely changed my life, as far as being able to have relationships with the young people and their families. I tell their families that, ‘Hey, I’m their community mama because I’m going to love and care for your child, as though they were my own.’”
Spark Academy is a youth development program for kids ages third through sixth grade, in four- and eight-week increments, offered during the school year and the summer. It was started three-and-a-half years ago at the urging of Edwards, who helped spearhead the program’s development.
Spark encourages community support and a place for kids to have fun together, while growing as individuals, learning from the words of God and assuming responsibility for oneself.
Spark has been on hold since February but is expected to return in coming months. With Edwards’ urging to keep the program going, former students have taken to act as a testimonial.
“One of my third graders said, ‘Who are the bosses? I need to talk to the bosses to get this program back,’” Edwards said. “For a little 8-year-old to speak up like that, that’s huge to talk about the impact we’ve made, even over Zoom.”
The award was presented by Edwards’ colleague, Major Gail Aho, who introduced the award with background of Edwards’ selection.
Major Aho said, “When I saw the category Grace Under Fire, I thought of Veronica Edwards, who was instrumental in creating Spark Academy at the Ferguson Community Empowerment Center. Whenever you want to try something new in any institution, it can become overwhelming and exasperating, which is why most people don’t take the challenge.”
In addition to Edwards, Veronica’s husband, Dr. Craige Edwards, was acknowledged.
“Veronica exemplified grace and wisdom with a great staff and terrific family,” Major Aho said. “Her husband [Dr. Craige] was our cheerleader and often gave us words of encouragement. I am thankful to him, too.”