The Spark Program addresses the nation's dropout crisis by connecting students from underserved neighborhoods with professionals who help motivate them to succeed academically and professionally. Each student identifies his or her dream job, and Spark matches the student with a mentor who has that job and can provide a one-on-one workplace apprenticeship. During the fall or spring session, students work on a specific project with their mentors at their workplace once a week for two hours after school. Additionally, students attend an in-school Leadership Class, led by a school staff volunteer, where they learn professional skills such as resumé writing and public speaking. Each session culminates in a Discovery Night, where students present their projects.
To date, Spark has provided more than 1,500 apprenticeships to middle-school students across the United States. Nearly all participating students come from neighborhoods where dropout rates exceed 50%, but Spark's alumni data show that apprentices have significantly higher graduation rates from high school, improved academic performance and attendance, and fewer suspensions.