Giving Back

Sparta High School Photography Students' Works Displayed at Verizon

 On June 5, students from Sparta High School photography classes and photography teacher Christine Mase met with Shankar Arumugavelu, the Chief Information Officer of Verizon Wireless. The students are shown in the Verizon office building in Warren with their art work created using a large format printer funded by a grant from the Sparta Education Foundation.  The theme of their cell phone photography was “A Day in the Life of Me.”

SPARTA, NJ -  On June 5, students from Sparta High School photography classes had the opportunity meet with Shankar Arumugavelu, the Chief Information Officer of Verizon Wireless.  Together with their photography teacher Christine Mase, they were also able to meet members of the finance organization at the Verizon Wireless office building in Warren, New Jersey.

Mase had given her photography class an assignment using only their cell phones called “A Day in the Life of Me.”  The students developed photo collages using contemporary phone applications that were mounted and displayed throughout the Verizon Wireless building. This exhibit was part of the “Top Dog” building beautification project to bring culture to the workplace and show how students are using cellular technology creatively in the classroom.  There was also the added benefit of the students having the opportunity to display their work publicly.

Danielle Dykstra, a Verizon Wireless employee who works in the Warren building, is also a Trustee for the Sparta Education Foundation.  This foundation donated over $500,000 in grants to the Sparta School District.  The Sparta Education Foundation funded a grant, submitted by Mase and fellow art teacher Christy Graham, for a large format printer for the photography department.  It is used by the students to print display-sized high quality photos for both exhibits and their portfolios.

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Tying this all together, the Verizon Foundation matched dollars for Danielle Dykstra’s volunteer hours with the Sparta Education Foundation. In essence, Verizon has helped pay for this printer that made this opportunity possible for these students. Having this photography display in a Verizon Wireless building completes the circle.

At the meeting, Alia Flanigan and Jenni Kurz gave an overview of their art work with Arumugavelu.  Mase reviewed how she integrates and applies cellular technology in the digital classroom.  This was followed by an engaging discussion on what teenagers use their smartphones for the most.  Surprisingly, the first answer was “directions,” followed by social media apps like Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter. 

Arumugavelu also asked them what they would like to see their cell phones do in the future.  Battery life was something they would like to see improved.  The students came into this meeting not really sure what to expect.  They were impressed with how interested Arumugavelu was in their projects and in what they had to say. This exhibit was a nice partnership between Verizon Wireless and the Sparta High School photography class. Everyone left the meeting looking forward to doing it again next year.

Recently, the Sparta Education Foundation funded two new grand pianos and a variety of photography studio equipment at Sparta High School and over 10,000 books to create a lending library in every elementary school classroom. The foundation’s biggest fundraiser is the Turkey Trot held in Lake Mohawk on Thanksgiving morning. The Sparta Education Foundation has awarded more than $500,000 in grants to all five of Sparta’s public schools since 2007. The Foundation is an independent non-profit organization whose mission is to engage the entire community in philanthropic giving that strengthens the public schools, supports teachers, and inspires students. For more information visit

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