The Issue: High-School Dropout Rates
Approximately 7,000 students drop out of school every day, adding up to 1.2 million students each year, according to a 2010 White House report. In Chicago Public Schools, the 2012 drop-out rate was 35.3%. Without a high-school diploma, young people are less likely to succeed as adults, often earning less than half of what college graduates earn over a lifetime.
The Campaign: Sponsoring Presentations for Middle-School Apprentices
All donations to this Grassroots campaign will be used by Spark to sponsor Discovery Night presentations for middle-school students at the end of their semester-long apprenticeship program. For every $500 raised, Spark can sponsor two Discovery Nights where 25 students teach the community about what they achieved during their apprenticeships.
Students pursue apprenticeships in a variety of careers, including business, science, and technology, leading to diverse, engaging presentations. Topics range from writing restaurant business models to building computers from spare parts—all skills that can increase academic engagement and encourage kids to pursue higher education. As the students stand up in front of their peers, parents, and teachers and demonstrate what they've accomplished, they gain valuable public speaking experience, and they get to take ownership over the projects they have poured their energy into for eight weeks straight.
Spark addresses the nation's dropout crisis by connecting students from underserved neighborhoods with professionals who help motivate them to succeed academically and professionally. Spark matches 7th and 8th graders with mentors working in career fields aligned with the students’ strengths and interests for one-on-one, workplace-based apprenticeships. 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, Spark's parallel in-school Leadership Class reinforces the link between classrooms and careers while helping students build applicable skills for success. Each session culminates in a Discovery Night, where students present their projects.
To date, Spark has provided more than 2,350 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.