Spark Employee Spotlight with Zack Itteilag

Zack Itteilag is a Program Coordinator at Spark the Journey, where he helps manage a caseload of student-mentor pairs for Spark’s high school program. He serves as a resource and support system for high school students and their mentors to help ensure our students are developing a meaningful relationship with their mentor and cultivating the skills they need to get to and through college and career.

What made you want to work at Spark the Journey? 

I was drawn to Spark the Journey because I loved their mission and how they were/are executing the program. Providing resources, one-on-one mentoring, and programs to help shape the individual within is what made me want to be a part of it. Perhaps I’m a touch pessimistic, but I don’t believe we can change the world in a macro sense. But I do believe with all my heart that we can change the world for individuals.

Who’s a person in your life that ignited a spark in your journey?

I would say that both of my parents ignited a spark in my journey. I was born in Vietnam and adopted when I was 21 months (about 2 years) old. I was given love, stability, education, and so much more. I was given opportunities that I would never have had if I’d stayed in Vietnam. I got to make friends, play sports, go to college, and develop into the person I am today without any external pressure – and so much more. Without the support and opportunity provided by my parents, I would never have been able to be where I am today.

What college did you attend, and what was your favorite thing about it? 

I went to Juniata College and graduated with a degree in Psychology. Juniata was the opposite of the DMV. It was small, rural, and not very diverse. My favorite thing about Juniata was the friendships and connections that I made. My college was actually smaller than my high school, which meant that you knew most of the people and professors. There was an opportunity to create really strong and intimate friendships with those around you. I made some of my best friends in college.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

In my free time, I like to be outside and play sports. I’m a huge Baltimore Ravens fan and love playing flag football in the fall. Every Sunday, you can find me glued to the couch watching the Ravens or NFL Redzone. I also really enjoy playing golf. Besides sports, I enjoy cooking and going on hikes.

If you could meet anyone, past or present, who would it be? 

If I could meet anyone, I would meet Barack Obama. I was probably four feet away from him in seventh grade, but I didn’t get to speak to him.

What three traits define you? 

Caring, persevering, and goofy.

What’s the most rewarding aspect about your role at Spark the Journey? 

I love seeing the growth in our students. We get to watch them grow up before our eyes and see the progress that they’ve made both academically and interpersonally. When it comes time to going off to college, or the workforce, it’s a joy knowing that they are putting the best versions of themselves forward.

What’s your favorite part about working at Spark the Journey? 

The relationships that we are able to foster. Whether that be with students, mentors, points-of-contact or coworkers, I feel like I am able to create lasting and meaningful relationships with everyone I interact with.