SPARK began in the summer of 1993, offering classes on the campus of Penn Valley Community College over the next four years.
In the spring of 1997, SPARK entered into an affiliation agreement with the University of Missouri-Kansas City, officially sponsored by The Arts and Science Department of UMKC. There were obvious benefits to both parties. UMKC would have a thriving Lifelong Learning Institute (LLI) on campus and SPARK would have a collegiate environment and the intellectual and cultural resources of the university. SPARK continues to share this relationship with UMKC. By its 10th anniversary SPARK became a non-profit corporation under 501-C 3 tax status. In 2019, we celebrated our 25th Anniversary and we continue to provide lifelong learning opportunities and social events for active adults in the Kansas City area.
At the beginning of 2020 SPARK relocated from the second floor of the UMKC Troost building to the first to aid members with mobility issues. With the outbreak of Covid-19 in the first quarter of 2020, SPARK embraced online classes via Zoom for our Summer 2020 quarter. This change in holding classes not allowed our members to remain safe, and was impetus to launch the SPARK YouTube channel. While SPARK prefers to hold classes face to face, we were grateful to have this option to keep our members engaged and healthy.
In 2021, SPARK moved to UMKC’s External Relations and Constituent Engagement division as part of the University’s lifelong learning initiative. Beginning in the fall of 2021, many classes are provided in a “hybrid” format allowing members to attend in-person or via Zoom to allow participation for members with mobility or distance barriers.