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OU graduate wins national award for leadership role in Soonerthon

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Soonerthon executive officers hold up the total amount raised Mar. 2.

A former OU student has received a national leadership award from the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

Jack Sparks, who graduated in May, has won the Dance Marathon Distinguished Leadership Award for his work in the philanthropy event Soonerthon. This is the first time a student from OU has received the award.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to represent OU at the national level,” Sparks said. “All the credit is due to everyone else really, I just happen to be the lucky person.”

Each year, the Dance Marathon Distinguished Leadership Award is given to 20 graduating seniors from 300 universities in the U.S. and Canada. The honorees are recognized for their impact within their university's dance marathon program, according to a press release from Miracle Network Dance Marathon.

During his time in college, Sparks spent all four of his years at OU involved in Soonerthon, raising $5,277 for the Children’s Hospital Foundation, according to the Miracle Network Dance Marathon website. Soonerthon as a whole has raised nearly $4 million over the last five years.

“Something that’s embodied my entire time in Soonerthon is this quote by Barack Obama I read the other day,” Sparks said. “‘You can either settle for the world as it is, or you can work for the world as it should be.’”

Sparks said he has served in several Soonerthon positions, including serving on the recruitment committee, the general executive committee and the data analysis committee. His favorite position was during his sophomore year.  

“I think my favorite opportunity was when I was in charge of recruitment just because I got to interact with our participants directly,” Sparks said. “Through that leadership role, I learned this lesson that stuck with me: leadership is not necessarily a position, but it’s actually a platform that you can use to enable others and spread the cause.”

Before his senior year, Sparks said, Soonerthon didn’t use as much data to back their choices compared to other universities’ dance marathon programs. To change that fact, Sparks said he and others established Soonerthon’s data analysis committee in 2019.

“We basically used information and data we were collecting to make actionable recommendations that could impact the program in a beneficial manner,” Sparks said.

In July, Sparks will move to Dallas to work as a consultant for a company called Deloitte, but he plans to stay involved in Soonerthon during his time after college.

“I’m already actually registered for Soonerthon 2020,” Sparks said. “I think that’s one of the big things why Soonerthon is so great. It touches so many different people around campus and in our community — even if people aren’t students anymore, they still want to be involved.”

This story was corrected June 5 at 10 a.m. A quotation from Sparks which previously said "actual" should have said "actionable."

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