Spark, a San Francisco-based mentoring program focused on dropout prevention, is expanding to Philly, and it’s on the search for mentors. It’s looking for any and all professionals: technologists, photographers, lawyers, you name it.
But why mentor in the first place? Here’s Spark program launch director Jim Schroder on that topic.
And, if he convinces you and you’d like to sign up or if you have any questions, contact him at jschroder AT sparkprogram.org or check out the volunteer application here.
Also, check out coverage of Spark’s partnership with the Wharton Social Impact Initative on Generocity here.
Twelve-year-old Keonte always had an interest in computers. He did not, however, have much interest in school. In 7th grade, as part of Spark, Keonte started meeting with Joe, a technology engineer, once a week at Joe’s office, where the two played Xbox to warm up their conversation. But this experience went far beyond video games.
Keonte was Joe’s apprentice through the Spark program. For eight weeks, they met to talk about what it took to be an engineer, and why it was necessary to have a strong math and science background to succeed. At the end of the program, Keonte had built his own computer using spare parts, and he had a solid understanding of how succeeding in school would help him realize his dreams.
Keonte is not alone. Philadelphia has a dropout rate hovering near 40 percent.
Spark, a program that was founded in San Francisco in 2004 and recently expanded to Los Angeles, Chicago and now Philadelphia, aims to combat the dropout crisis by connecting at-risk 7th and 8th grade youth with one-on-one apprenticeships in the professions of their choice in order to “spark” their potential. By tapping into a student’s natural interest, Spark personalizes the effort to re-involve each child in his own school and community.
A casual reading of recent news highlights school district budget shortfalls, school closures, cheating scandals and more. It’s all too easy to dismiss the challenges as the District’s mess; however, the effects of the dropout crisis on our local communities and economy make that mess all of ours.
What, then, is a working professional to do? There are no doubt countless helpful ways to get involved, but I would like to suggest one small commitment almost any working professional can make on a personal level, far more immediate than meetings and politics: mentor an at-risk student.
Spark offers a natural bridge; mentors make an impact by doing exactly what they are already good at and passionate about. Share your success with a student, inspire them to graduate, build a stronger professional pipeline, and make a small difference in Philadelphia’s educational system: be a mentor with Spark!
Spark apprenticeships will begin in February 2013 with students from Mantua’s Morton McMichael School, Mastery Charter’s Shoemaker Campus, and West Philadelphia’s Henry C. Lea Elementary. Apprenticeships last 8-10 weeks.-30-