Student Stories

Your support helps us provide life-changing experiences to these amazing students, and many more like them! These are some of their stories.


Almanika: Animal Care
Chicago, IL

Almanika is a caregiver at heart. This 8th grader not only loves babies, but she also loves taking care of animals, especially baby animals. Through her apprenticeship, Almanika learned about the field of veterinary medicine at Furnetic with her mentor Melissa, a veterinary technician.  Melissa taught Almanika how to run lab work, set up fluids and put them in catheters, and how to find bacteria and yeast through a microscope. At the culminating Career Day event, Almanika showed off her knowledge of how to use the microscope by teaching her peers how to examine blood smears.


Gabrielle: Journalism & Media
Chicago, IL

Gabrielle was so excited when she found out that she would be working at the Chicago Tribune for her apprenticeship. Over the course of eight weeks, she learned how to conduct interviews, pitch her ideas to newspaper editors, edit her stories, and get published from her mentors Julie and Melissa. Gabrielle even published a story she composed during her apprenticeship in "Smart Boards in The Mash," a weekly newspaper for teens run by the Chicago Tribune.


Luis: Computers & Technology
Chicago, IL

7th grader Luis worked at IDEO, a design and innovation consulting firm in Chicago.  Luis loves action games and movies, and is interested in how designers make 3-D characters and motion.  During his apprenticeship, Luis worked with Burton, a video game designer.  His favorite part of the apprenticeship was seeing his App, Spicy Squid and the Saltwater Syndicate, go from an abstract idea on a Post-it to a drawing to a digitalized image!


Khristian: Architecture & Design
Chicago, IL

7th grader Khristian completed an apprenticeship at IDEA Architects with her mentor Dina.  Khristian is inquisitive, and loves learning about how to design buildings and about the business aspects of running an architecture firm.  Her favorite part of her apprenticeship was using Revit, a building information and modeling software program, which she used to design her Discovery Night project -- her dream house.  Over the course of their eight weeks together, Dina noticed that Khristian made increasing connections between working hard now and achieving her goals for her future.


Kierra: Environmental Science
Los Angeles, CA

Initially interested in animal care, Kierra was apprehensive about apprenticing with Children’s Nature Institute. Children’s Nature Institute focuses on environmental education and works mostly with insects and reptiles -- not the cute and cuddly creatures that had inspired Kierra's love for animals! Kierra quickly overcame her concerns when her mentor Christy gave her the opportunity to interact with the various creatures and insects at the Institue. Just 8 weeks after her first visit, Kierra became a natural at educating others about the environment and handling the reptiles that once terrified her. With support from her mentor, Kierra now loves learning about all animals and educating her friends and family about their role in the environment. Through her Spark experience, Kierra took positive risks and overcame boundaries.


Kyle: Computers & Technology
Chicago, IL

7th grader Kyle loves video games, writing, and being creative.  So for his apprenticeship, he worked at CareerBuilder to create his own imaginary video game company.  He worked with his mentor Rachel to design a website for his company, including his own logo.  Kyle, normally very shy, became much more outgoing during Leadership Class throughout the course of his apprenticeship.  Today, he is more confident in class, and feels comfortable sharing his ideas with his peers.


Javier: Structural Engineering
Los Angeles, CA

8th grader Javier's love for building things and his interest in math made him the perfect fit to apprentice with a structural engineer at Walter P. Moore. His apprenticeship exposed him to the latest innovations in engineering. Each session, Javier and mentor worked on challenging math problems to better understand engineering concepts, and then later visited an actual construction site to see this math in action! This way, Javier was able to see the relevancy of the math skills he learns at school to his future goals.


Jahaira: Engineering
Los Angeles, CA

8th grader Jahaira wants to find a way to apply her love of science to her future. Jahaira and mentor Dr. Trinh Pham of the Cal State LA Department of Engineering explored a variety of engineering concepts throughout their apprenticeship, and they decided to focus on the impact of carbon dioxide on the environment for Jahaira's Discovery Night project. Despite the hour-long bus commute to her apprenticeship, Jahaira enjoyed every moment of her time spent learning about environmental engineering and how her actions affect the environment. After apprenticing at the Cal State LA, Jahaira says she hopes to attend this college someday.


Madison: Journalism
Los Angeles, CA

Madison is passionate about the environment and aspires to one day express this passion to the public as a radio announcer. Madison’s mentor Alex was committed to exposing Madison to real world reporting. Through her experiences, Madison learned that the job of a reporter requires many skills, including patience, persistence, and passion. With coaching from Alex, Madison was given the opportunity  to record her very own news piece about clean energy at the Santa Monica Pier at the infamous KCRW studio in Santa Monica.


Carlos: Music Production
Los Angeles, CA

Thanks to his Spark apprenticeship, 8th grader Carlos is well on his way to a career in music production! Known to his friends as "Mr. Solo" because of his love and passion for music, Carlos is committed to pursuing a career in music, despite others' claims that such a career is unlikely. During his apprenticeship at Melody Makers Production, Carlos got to experience this supposedly impossible career tangibly. In just 8 weeks, Carlos and his mentor David wrote and a produced a song, "Let You Know", which is now available on iTunes! This experience motivated Carlos to continue pursuing his dreams.


Vincente: Visual Arts
Los Angeles, CA

8th grader Vicente is an incredible artist.  During his time at 18th Street Art Center in Santa Monica, Vicente worked with his mentor Karl to hone his skills and develop a personal style. Through Vincente's journey, Karl found that he too learned a lot about himself as an artist, so the experience was envigorating for both student and mentor, allowing them to share their passion and inspire each other to improve their craft. 


Keonte: Computers & Technology
San Francisco, CA

7th grader Keonte completed an apprenticeship at bCode with technology guru Joe Synnott to explore his interest in computer hardware.  Every week, Keonte visited Joe’s office in the Financial District of San Francisco where the pair began each session with 10 minutes of Xbox, which, according to Joe, “helps us catch up and warm up.”  But the apprenticeship went far beyond games; Keonte’s Discovery Night project was a self-built computer, constructed from spare parts gathered from around Joe’s office.  Keonte not only gained valuable computer skills from this project, but also learned communication and professional skills while building and presenting it.  These new strengths helped Keonte come out of his shell, and he became more confident in his own potential to become a technology guru in his own right some day.


Orlando: Aviation & Aerospace Engineering
Redwood City, CA

Orlando has been interested in aviation, aerospace, and outer space since he was very young. However, he had only enjoyed the field from afar because of a severe fear of flying. As a result, Orlando did not believe that a career in this field would be possible for him. Fortunately, Orlando was matched with Brittany, a kind and experienced pilot, who taught him the basics of aviation and airplane enigineering. After only two apprenticeship sessions, Orlando said he was ready to go up in the plane. After this first flight, Orlando could not wait to get up in the air again and guide the plane himself! Through his experience, Orlando not only conquered his fear of flying, but he also gained self-confidence in his ability to do anything he sets his mind to!


Jamal: Computers & Technology
San Francisco, CA

Although 8th grader Jamal is extremely bright, he has struggled with school engagement and attendance, and his apprenticeship with Luke, a computer science graduate student at UC Berkeley, started off rocky. However, after the first session, the two became fast friends, and Jamal’s attendance and enthusiasm for both his apprenticeship and school improved dramatically. During their apprenticeship, Jamal learned the ins and outs of designing and maintaining a website, and even took a field trip to the mecca of computer technology: Google! His final project combined his interest in website design and his passion for skateboarding with an instructional website that demonstrates skateboarding tricks. Through his apprenticeship, Jamal has not only realized the importance of his education, but he also gained a close friend and mentor in Luke.


Sergio: Law, Government, & Safety
Redwood City, CA

7th grader Sergio is a bright student, but because he did not see the relevance of his education to his future, he often acted out in school. When asked his dream job, Sergio expressed interest in both being on a SWAT team and working with a dog trainer, so he was matched with a police officer who handles the force's canines. Sergio immediately built a bond with his mentor Officer Dan, who demonstrated the importance of school rules and state laws for public safety. Through the course of his apprenticeship, Sergio developed a high respect for authority figures and his education, and now has a clear path for his future.


Lanie: Fashion & Jewelry Design
San Francisco, CA

8th grader Lanie blossomed through her apprenticeship in jewelry design. She worked with professional designer Nico to learn about sourcing materials, conducting buyer meetings with potential vendors, and creating a unique aesthetic and a coherent look for a product line. Lanie learned so much from her mentor Nico, and in the end Nico also learned from Lanie! During one session, Lanie taught Nico a braiding technique she has learned growing up in the Phillipines. For their final project, Lanie and Nico created a spring collection of handmade pieces that they braided, beaded, and wove together. At Discovery Night, Lanie captivated the room with an eloquent reflection on all she had learned over the course of the semester and on her hopes for continued growth in her next semester of school. 


Alante: Law Enforcement
Philadelphia, PA

Alante is an eighth grader who describes herself as helpful and generous.  Alante was struggling in school and teachers attributed her disengagement to the lack of positive influences in her life.  Through her Spark apprenticeships, Alante was matched with Gregorrio, an officer with the Philadelphia Police Department who works directly in her community.  Alante not only gained a mentor, but also a role model. A variety of hands-on activities and personalized attention helped Alante and Gregorrio to build a strong rapport. Alante learned about community relationships and the tools and procedures used in crime scene investigation.  In addition, Alante gained the confidence and skills to speak personally with adults.   Through the apprenticeship experience, Alante also discovered an interest in police work and shares that this is a field she will consider pursuing in her future.


Chance: Architecture & Engineering
Philadelphia, PA

Chance is a seventh grader who likes creating inventions, riding his bike and conducting science experiments. However, Chance had difficulty focusing in school and was easily distracted. Through Spark, Chance was paired with Scott, an architect at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design. Together they created a structural model for their Spark project to share at Spark’s culminating event, Discovery Night. This project helped Chance to connect what he learned in school with the fields of design and engineering. In addition, Chance took the skills he learned in his apprenticeship and used them in the classroom! His mentor, Scott, noted, “Chance is showcasing his design abilities in math class! He has a great ability visualizing and dealing with geometry.”


DaShawn: Hospitality & Culinary Arts
Philadelphia, PA

DaShawn is an eighth grader who likes playing video games, cooking and creating inventions. Unfortunately prior to Spark, DaShawn felt like he could not easily talk to adults. This changed when he met his mentor, “Miss Tootsie,” the owner of the catering company Tootsie’s located in Philadelphia’s renowned Reading Terminal Market. Not only did the pair form a close bond, but also the fast-paced and busy environment gave DaShawn an opportunity to interact with adults from every walk of life. As a result, he learned how to make eye contact, professionally greet customers, speak loudly and enunciate. DaShawn’s favorite things about his Spark apprenticeship were the experiences and the new things Miss Tootsie taught him. Having witnessed his own social-emotional growth, Dashawn recommended Spark to his classmates!


Shanice: Law Enforcement
Philadelphia, PA

Meet Spark mentor Corporal Walker and her student, Shanice. Corporal Walker and Shanice meet each week for two hours. Before Spark, Shanice struggled with controlling her temper and greatly disliked working with groups. When asked to work with her classmates, Shanice refused and instead opted to work alone. Since meeting with Corporal Walker, Shanice made the decision to help ensure her fellow classmates are safe. She is now the school Safety Officer/Hall Monitor, and is considering running for Vice President of her class! Corporal Walker helps demonstrate the value in education, self-confidence, and discipline, lessons that are essential to ensuring a student like Shanice can stay engaged, on track, and ready for a bright future.

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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