Lightspark Overview


The Lightspark Foundation (“Lightspark”) is a nonprofit organization (501(c)(3) status pending) dedicated to improving social relations through story. We believe that the path to social progress—including innovation and conflict resolution—and is guided by empathy, and we see story as the straightest line to achieving it. Guided by our core values of transparency, integrity, diversity, veracity, affinity, and humanity, we serve our mission through four main initiatives: media literacy education, storyteller development, grant-making, and community-building.



Lightspark VISION

Lightspark aims to create a world where our mediated communications promote authenticity, equity, and inclusion, where all demographics are meaningfully represented and engaged in the public discourse, and where humanity draws inspiration for innovative solutions to social problems through empathy-oriented communication.


In Lightspark’s world, facts matter, we treat each other with compassion and respect, and the opportunity for self-actualization is abundant—the privilege to excel is proffered to all willing to work for it, not according to a rigged system of hard cronyism and softer accumulative advantages. The general public is informed about, engaged in, and accountable for making the world a safer, smarter, and more fulfilling place for all, and the lines that support an “us-vs.-them” paradigm dissolve.

Lightspark Mission

Our mission is to help humanity engender empathy for each other and a better understanding of the world around us through education, storyteller development, grant-making, and community- and coalition-building by supporting important and underrepresented perspectives to reach the largest possible (or most appropriate or effective) audiences.



Invoking the adage “sunlight is the best disinfectant,” we recognize that accountability derives from transparency. We’re committed to sharing our intentions and operations with the world to enlist the help of collaborators in our mission. We stand behind the work we do, and have no reason to hide.


We do the right thing and keep our promises. And in the rare instances we can’t keep a promise, we do our best to mitigate any fallout for the stakeholders involved.


We value unique perspectives forged through lived experiences, and believe that including a cross-section of voices in decision-making both increases population representation and reduces the likelihood of groupthink, leading to sounder and more sophisticated solutions.


While perception may account for individuals’ personal experience of reality, facts still matter. We rely on scientific, evidence-based practices and analytics to make and track important, pragmatic decisions.


We collaborate with others who share our vision whenever possible, recognizing the power of building coalitions and the wisdom of socializing strategies and tactics.


We’re driven by compassion, friendliness, and respect for our fellow humankind in our interactions with our stakeholders. Relationships are important to us, and sometimes the most effective way to understand others is to meet them where they are. We’ll step out of our comfort zone if that’s the best way to build a bridge.


Media Literacy Education.

In our brave new world, where people at any point along the sociopolitical spectrum can construct nearly fact-free echo chambers that merely affirm their preconceptions—and where 40% of Americans get most of their news from their personally curated Facebook feeds—the public’s immunity to being duped is gravely weakened. Lightspark designs and curates age-appropriate and pedagogically sound curricula for students in public and private education, grades K-12. These curricula cultivate critical thinking skills and provide context for analysis, enabling students to thrive as informed and engaged global citizens.

Storyteller Development.

Privilege is the accumulation of a lifetime of advantages, large and small, that position those in some demographics to self-actualize and freely voice their perspectives, while those from other demographics struggle to satisfy basic needs or to be heard in the collective conversation. To help correct this imbalance, we discover underrepresented voices, cultivate their skills, and empower them to broadcast their views to substantial audiences through our Studio programs, where they’re paired with industry veterans and personal mentors in a workshop format. Examples of Lightspark Studios include Screenwriting, Songwriting, Journalism, Composition (both Fiction and Music), Producing (both Narrative and Documentary), and Directing (both Narrative and Documentary).


Sometimes the best way to support a project is through a financial contribution, so our Grants program manages the curation and disbursement of our contributions to artistic and journalistic projects. Grant amounts can range from $1,000 to $100,000 or more (depending on the scope of the project and its alignment with our mission), and may inure to the benefit of individual projects or nonprofit organizations.


While much of our work revolves around mediated communication, there’s no substitute for good, old-fashioned facetime. Through producing events like the Lightspark Entertainment Media Summit, we gather the right people in the right place at the right time to facilitate meaningful connections and extensive learning opportunities.



Jared Ruga

JD, MBA, MFA (VP­­, Film & Television, Sentry Financial Corporation) specializes in merging creative and business considerations to the benefit of both. In his role at Sentry, Jared manages the development, production, and sale/distribution of both narrative and documentary projects—guided by the Film & TV Department’s ethos to support timely, compelling, authentic, and socially conscious stories from underrepresented perspectives. Hailing from an extensive academic background (with baccalaureate degrees in Philosophy/Communication and International Business from the Honors Program at the University of San Diego, and advanced degrees in law, business, and film from the University of Utah), he is committed to continuous learning in a collaborative atmosphere, for which independent content creation is the perfect environment.


Jonathan ruga

Esq., MBA, CPA (CEO, Sentry Financial Corporation) is primarily responsible for establishing Sentry’s strategic direction and co-leading the Equipment Financing Division (in addition to overseeing the five other divisions: Real Estate, Environmental Opportunities, Media & Entertainment, Restaurants, and Private Equity). Prior to co-founding Sentry in 1986, Jonathan was the Executive Vice President and General Counsel of a regional equipment finance company based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Upon graduating from the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law in 1982, where he was a member of the Utah Law Review, Jonathan worked with the law firm of Parr, Brown, Gee & Loveless from 1982 to 1985, where he specialized in the areas of financing and leasing, federal taxation, and real estate and business law.


Scott Young

Esq., (COO, Sentry Financial Corporation) co-leads Sentry’s Equipment Financing Division, including establishing and maintaining Sentry’s equipment finance programs and its relationships with participating financial institutions, managing Sentry’s Remarketing Department, and managing the day-to-day operations of the Division. Prior to re-joining Sentry in 1998 after co-founding it in 1986, Scott was a partner with the law firm of Parr, Brown, Gee & Loveless, where his practice emphasized commercial litigation and the areas of equipment financing and general business and corporate law.  Scott graduated from the University of Utah School of Business with an undergraduate degree in finance, and obtained a law degree from the University of Utah College of Law, where he was a member of the Utah Law Review.