Sam Zakaria is Igniting Duval


By Annie Carroll

On first sight, Sam Zakaria looks like a heavy rocker who’s been forced to get a day job.

Colorful tattoos stick out from his long-sleeve button down. Get a chance to talk with him, however, and you’ll find an experienced and passionate educator.

Zakaria has turned his drive for teaching into Ignite Duval, set to launch during the 2015 One Spark festival.

Ignite Duval was created in June of 2014 and is a one-man operation. It will be a six-week program for children to learn web design. The program will use and target kids at risk of dropping out or those not perusing higher education.

Zakaria decided to team up with small businesses in the Jacksonville area to generate funding. The symbiotic partnership designs websites for companies while teaching children desirable technical skills.

Ignite Duval will also offer web site updates and maintenance to those companies for a few dollars a month to generate revenue.

For the curious, Ignite is Zakaria’s favorite band, and he often hides rock group names in his projects. Hence, Ignite Duval.

Zakaria is asking for $15,000 in funding for Ignite Duval, creator No. 21899. His booth is a part of the #EdSpark venue located at the Times-Union Center.

With the funding, a permanent office space will be acquired as well as chrome books, cameras and computer software. Zakaria is anxious to get the first group of children through the six-week course to gain credibility with future company partners and troubleshoot overall problems.

Although one of the program’s aims is to give kids skills they can use in getting a university degree, Zakaria stressed that college is not for everyone.

As a former geography teacher in Duval County, he recognizes the pressure on students to go to college, even if they are not sure of a career path.

Zakaria said that he went to college because that’s what high school graduates were supposed to do. Luckily, he was able to pair his degree from University of North Florida with his love of teaching and make an accomplished career.

Zakaria was able to incorporate his love of new technology with his passion for teaching.

Ignite Duval will use Trello, a new communication app that organizes google documents, emails and notes in one place, to stay connected with participating children and businesses in between meetings.

Zakaria said he was not fluent with before the Ignite Duval concept but enjoyed the process of learning the site.

Although he is still finalizing a week-by-week lesson plan for the program, Zakaria was able to comment on the first few days.

Week one of Ignite Duval includes an in-person meeting between Zakaria and children new to the program. He will introduce material for the next five weeks and present the company that the children will be working with. Zakaria will then explain and Trello, and in the following weeks, work starts on the website.

He is still working out follow up meeting times and details.

One Spark came at the perfect time to be a platform for showing off Ignite Duval.

Zakaria knew about the festival from living in Jacksonville but was not able to attend for the first two years. The premiere One Spark event didn’t see favorable weather and Zakaria’s young twins add to his already busy schedule.

Zakaria said during his first years of teaching, his goal was to motivate as many students as possible to pass.

Now, with wisdom found in the classroom, he’s narrowed his aim to the children who are open to his help. Zakaria still works in education but is out of the classroom.

“I don’t expect this to be a fix to everything,” Zakaria said.

Instead, he wants to open opportunities to students who are interested in web design and technology and give them practical skills to build careers and confidence.

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