During middle-school and early high-school years, children from underprivileged communities are at the highest risk for academic disengagement. The dropout rate in these neighborhoods can rise as high as 35%! Created in 2004 by teachers and social entrepreneurs to curb these alarming possibilities, Spark connects underserved youth with professional mentors outside the classroom. Through connecting these at-risk students with adults in the workplace, Spark both strengthens and gives back to the community at large.
Students are paired with professionals at leading workplaces such as KPMG or the LA Dodgers Foundation to gain important life and work skills as well as understanding the importance of furthering their education. Mentoring for Spark is an extremely rewarding and unique experience for adults as well. They get to build a relationship and empower their mentee to improve academic performance, graduate on time, and succeed in college and in the workforce.
Jamal, a struggling middle-school student, was paired with Luke, a computer science graduate student at UC Berkley, to help improve Jamal’s school attendance and participation. Through the apprenticeship Jamal’s attendance and academic engagement greatly increased as he got to learn all about the logistics of building and maintaining websites. As a result, Jamal was able to understand the importance of his education, develop a close friendship with Luke, and even create his own instructional skateboarding website. We love Spark’s mission and appreciate how influential this program can be on improving at-risk youth’s lives and education.