About Spark


Spark inspires 7th, 8th and 9th graders in underserved communities to succeed in high school and beyond by engaging them with mentors and future careers. 

As young teens transition to young adults, it is the best time to show them what’s possible. It’s also a time when 7th, 8th and 9th grade students from underserved communities risk academic disengagement.

Spark inspires these students to succeed in high school and beyond by connecting them with mentors in exciting workplaces and supporting their academic journey with skill-building and resources. By engaging working professionals and connecting businesses with local communities, Spark empowers the next generation to perform better in school, graduate on time and lead fulfilling careers and lives.  Join us in equipping and inspiring all students to discover who they can become.


Founded in 2004 by teachers and social entrepreneurs Chris Balme and Melia Dicker, Spark strengthens the communities we work in through two paths: by helping underserved youth become motivated learners and connected community members, and by encouraging adults to nurture the next generation through mentoring and volunteerism. Nearly all Spark students come from neighborhoods where dropout rates climb as high as 35%.

Growing rapidly since its inception, Spark's reach continues to expand annually. Now serving students from coast to coast as a national organization, Spark expanded from the San Francisco Bay Area to Los Angeles in 2010, Chicago in 2011, Oakland in 2012 and Philadelphia in 2013.

Since 2004, and with more than 5,000 students served, the results are clear: 92% of Spark students have graduated or are on track to graduate on time, compared to an average of 68% in districts Spark serves!


Spark’s mission is to provide life-changing apprenticeships to youth in underserved communities across the United States. Spark, a national nonprofit with offices in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia, offers a unique program that re-engages middle school students in their education through hands-on apprenticeships and a Leadership Curriculum. Spark partners with schools and workplaces in cities coast-to-coast to match underserved 7th and 8th graders with mentors working in career fields aligned with the students’ strengths and interests. Spark’s parallel in-school curriculum reinforces the link between classrooms and careers while helping students build skills necessary for success in high school and beyond. After creating and supporting thousands of apprenticeships since 2004, the results are clear: Spark students consistently gain confidence, key skills, and positive relationships, and have a graduation rate above the national average.

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