To many youth in the metro Richmond area, Tabatha Spurlock is a life changer. As the coordinator for the Henrico County Public School's Program for Academic and Career Empowerment, she supervises overage students trying to pursue graduation on time (her former role was to oversee sixth-twelfth graders who were expelled).
She's also the guiding light behind Spark of Life, an organization that works with inner-city girls ages 8 to 18. “I saw that there were a plethora of programs for [at-risk] males but few for young women,” she says.
Spurlock knows what the girls are going through. A native of Chester, she came from the projects herself. “They can relate to me because I grew up from disadvantaged circumstances,” she says. At Spark of Life, she plans an annual “smart girls” retreat for 50 area kids, and helped to establish a financial literacy program at Fairfield Middle School, working with the Henrico Federal Credit Union.
Spurlock once was a trained mediator for the Commonwealth of Virginia and a grant writer for the Boys and Girls Clubs, but she found desk jobs confining. “I enjoy working hands-on with the kids,” she says. Somehow, the educator who received the 2009 Education Star Award from the American Business Women's Association also finds the time to volunteer in the community, helping out at the annual Thanksgiving dinner at the Greater Richmond Convention Center and organizing a winter gear drive for the Giving Heart Foundation. “It seems like I can fit 36 hours into 24,” says the woman who the kids call “Ma.”