Middle Grades Campaign

Keeping 7th and 8th grade students engaged, on track and ready!

Career exposure, skill-building and mentoring for middle grade students made possible by the All Points North Foundation

In the major metropolitan regions Spark serves, an average of 35% of students do not achieve a high school diploma. Importantly, nearly 70% of those dropouts did not complete or had to repeat the 9th grade.  With support from the All Points North Foundation, Spark is dedicated to providing the additional support, experiences and skill-building that middle schoolers need to stay engaged, on track and ready for success in high school and beyond.

Campaign in Action

Read more:

Learn more about Spark's advocacy:

  • Mentorship and Civic Engagement Panel, Expanded Learning Summit, April 2015
  • Spark's Blog - Spark CEO Jason Cascarino shares his first-hand mentoring and advocacy experiences 
  • Spark Online, a web-based resource portal for students, mentors and educators, is now live for program participants with content generously supported by the All Points North Foundation

Get Involved

Help Spark, the All Points North Foundation and their partners to support the success of all 7th and 8th graders!

Our Community Partners

Spark works collaboratively with the following organizations to build awareness and support for middle grade students, as well as mentoring. 

About Spark and the All Points North Foundation

In 2012, the All Points North Foundation (APNF) made its first investment in Spark by funding apprenticeship programming for 20 students at National Teachers Academy (NTA), a Chicago public school.  Since that time, the partnership has grown to help nearly 100 students at NTA, more than 700 students throughout Chicago and 25 student at the James Lick Middle School in San Francisco be paired with Spark mentors to learn through workplace-based apprenticeships!   In addition, APNF’s support also has enabled Spark to create a collaborative relationship with Chicago Public Schools’ Career and Technical Education department for the development and delivery of high school readiness programming and transition resources for students at the same school.

In 2015, continued funding from the APNF further elevated Spark’s mission and the national dialogue around support for middle grades students.  “In the landscape of education, significant investments have been made in early education and in graduation or career and college readiness programs at the high school level,” said Jason Cascarino, Spark’s Chief Executive Officer.  “We need a similar focus on programs that help seventh and eighth graders succeed. APNF is really unique within the funding community with its dedication to middle grades specifically. In partnership with APNF, Spark can help build momentum for middle grades initiatives and work to decrease the dropout rate by targeting younger students - keeping them engaged and preparing them to successfully navigate the crucial transition to high school.”

Funding from APNF helps Spark and its partners to focus the national education agenda on the middle grades.  “Spark has become a game changer in the lives of middle school youth in some of the most underserved neighborhoods across the country,” said Laura Staich, executive director of the All Points North Foundation. “We are proud to support an organization that is making a difference for students nationwide and propelling the national education conversation to bring a much-needed focus on the middle grades.”  Learn more about the All Points North Foundation and its work to advance opportunities for youth in the middle grades across the country!




Spark inspires 7th, 8th and 9th grade students to succeed in high school and beyond by connecting them with mentors in leading 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.

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