Alumni Perspective: Tucker Cocchiarella '13

VMS Community Blog
Posted March 28, 2018
by Tucker Cocchiarella '13 Media Coordinator/Co-Founder, InSpark Lab

I left the comfort of Vail, CO on a sunny afternoon over a year ago on March 17, 2017.  I spent several months exploring the tropical waters of Central America, warming my bones after a lifetime spent in the snow.  After several months of taking photos at surf resorts, I wanted to act towards something bigger. I was reflecting on how sports like surfing and skiing bring us so much personal fulfillment, yet they contribute so little to the world as whole.  Phrases from Bob Bandoni’s ethics class like, “global citizen” and “greater good” echoed in my head, as I brainstormed ways to make a difference in the world from my hammock in Nicaragua.


Filming a story about gender equality on Morocco 

My Brazilian friend, Yuri, whom I met while working at a surf camp, had similar thoughts and we  joined together in Morocco in November. Our original goal was to tell visual stories of people who are working toward the United Nations 2030 agenda to reach the 17 Sustainable Development Global Goals.  After traveling through Morocco and Egypt, going through a process of trial and error, we developed a more concrete methodology and created InSpark Lab.

InSpark Lab is a non-profit start-up designed to facilitate disruptive social progress development worldwide. To do that, it provides underprivileged communities around the world with a tool that enables them to combine emerging technologies and strategies with the potential for extraordinary social impact to shape their own future. This tool is called the InSpark Journey.


Working in a school in Kenya

Our first mission was in a poor community outside of Nairobi, Kenya. We helped the local people make some simple connections that ultimately blossomed into a farming cooperative. There was a high level of unemployment among the local youth and many plots of land that were not being utilized. We assisted in organizing an executive board of motivated citizens that would lead this “share farming” initiative. Our friends in Kenya are now a registered community based organization and are beginning to farm on their own. Perhaps even more remarkable—it took them only a month to achieve this.

We have just finished our second mission, which took us to Northern Uganda. Camping in the hot and dusty plains of the surrounding area for five weeks was a challenge for me. However, the generosity and hope for a better future shown by the local population encouraged me to push onward. The difficult history of dictatorship, corruption, and rebel civil war (LRA) has not stopped the Achloi people (the local tribe) from looking forward, which inspired us to take them through the “InSpark Journey.”

The process consists of  four parts: “The Spark,” “The Dive,”  “The Change,” and “The Resolution.” First, we immerse ourselves in the community where we hope to, spark a new wave of inspiration, and then dive into the local culture and validate the hypothesis created. Next we spend time assisting the locals in creating something from the people, for the people—change.  And finally, resolution is the stage where we continue to consult the community from a distance via phone or Skype. We are also building a volunteer program to have an outsider help keep the project sustainable.


Completed community center in the Ugandan Achloi village

As a result of our work together with the Achloi people: they have built community center, they have created a registered Community Based Organization, and they have developed a series of business models to cultivate new sources of income from existing resources. Through exporting mangoes, operating a bakery, raising rabbits for profit, and selling Chia seeds, they will come together as a community to work toward a positive future.

Now our team of five global citizens plans to travel to the mountains of Northern India.  Everyday is a dynamic new adventure and I have been learning a great amount about myself and about the world as a whole. We are finishing the process of officially registering the NGO and are therefore still paying for our own travel expenses.  We have received a few private donations that have enabled us to invest some money in the communities we have worked with to help give them the initial push to better their futures.

Even though I still dream of the beauty of my home town, the uncertainty of our quickly changing world, and the inspiration I find in the people I’ve met, continues to pull me forward.  

If you want to learn more about what we’ve been doing, please check out our social channels on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and our Website.

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3i_WPwyZZyo​
Website: http://www.insparklab.com
Instagram: @insparklab
Facebook: Tales4Change (@inspaklab)

About Vail Mountain School

Founded in 1962, Vail Mountain School is a K-12, coed, independent school in Vail, Colorado. Our philosophy is to provide a demanding, college preparatory, liberal arts education in an atmosphere of mutual respect between faculty and students, where nurturing a healthy self-concept and stimulating academic inquiry are parallel objectives. Intentionally designed cross-age programs promote role modeling, responsibility, self confidence, and a sense of community. Our location in the Rocky Mountains allows us to integrate the outdoors into the academic and cultural fabric of the school through hut trips, all-school Ski Fridays, and other experiential learning opportunities. The result: our graduates possess a quiet confidence that serves them well in college and in life—confidence to assert themselves in their first college level essays; to raise their hand in a class of hundreds; to live on their own for the first time, to meet with and engage their professors; and to lead among their peers.