My friend Mike told me about the Sparks program, and we got all excited in our animation studio about helping out. before we took in Nick, the people from Sparks came by to look at the place. We were all impressed by how nice and excited they were. When Nick came, he turned out to an incredibly funny and interested little boy. The whole process was so much fun!
I can't say enough great things about my experience with Spark or the work that they do to support at-risk students. Although I don't work in the video game industry, the flexibility of the program allowed me to structure an apprenticeship that analyzed the industry from a business perspective. My student and I learned together and grew from our experiences over the 10 week program, throughout which the Spark staff provided outstanding support. I really think that the experience helped my student to gain confidence that carried over to school.
I have two distinct experiences, one with the students, the other with the staff. A) Students: at the conclusion of the apprenticeship, there is Discovery Night. This is where the students present their work, whether it be a comedy routine or a portfolio of photographs. After watching the kids make their presentations, it is hard to envision any one of them as being an "at risk" kid. They've worked hard to master their subject matter and they show all the gratefulness and pride that you'd expect of any student. B) Staff: these people are as committed to their mission as any group of people I have ever been around. They work tirelessly, and with passion, to enhance the lives of their students
Spark is an excellent professionally run organization that provides a very valuable and necessary service to our community. The student participants in the program are provided with an experience that will help them throughout their lives and in all aspects of their academic, personal and professional life. I don't know of any other organization which provides such a constructive and productive environment for the students to learn and build confidence.
Spark contacted me out of the blue back in July of 2009. At first, I wasn't sure what to make of their offer. So, like any business person would do, I asked what I would receive in return for volunteering my time. What they offered on the table was some advertising and potential networking opportunities. Initially, I wasn't too impressed with their counter offer but figured it wouldn't hurt to try give it a shot. Orientation rolled around and pretty soon I was mentoring and teaching a junior high student on how to run a business. The only time I had ever really worked with youth was at the San Francisco Juvenile Hall because my background was similar to those kids in many ways, so I figured I would be able to relate to them a lot easier. My student from Spark--at first--made me a little nervous because I wasn't quite sure what she expected of me. To my surprise, my student turned out to be very mature for her age and seemed to have been prepped quite well from her mentors at Spark. It was a very eye opening experience because my student actually provided several "uncensored" suggestions towards my business and my business character--it really affirms just how smart kids and people are in general, regardless of their age. The apprenticeship program lasted for a month, though I wish it could have lasted longer, because my student didn't get a chance to really run all aspects of the business. We spent a good amount of time prepping for her discovery night (a mandatory presentation reporting to an audience what they learned from the apprentice program), so that did take away from some of the mentoring and apprenticeship. Though, I did feel the presentation provided a good road-map for the student and myself to follow. It also helped me in deciding which things might be more crucial to teach her. The experience of working w/ my student reminded me of the problems I faced and of what it was like growing up when I was 14, which also made the whole experience it little nostalgic. Another thing I noticed about Spark, was that all of their staff involved exuded this very positive energy. There wasn't any apathy or dissipation from anyone that I met. It was pretty much all about the kids and providing them a great learning experience. In the end, I realized how connected Spark was to the community and I proposed partnering up with them officially. They welcomed the proposition and we were able to strike a deal so that we could both benefit mutually. Till this day, I still keep in close contact with a few members of the Spark staff and I would gladly help their organization in any way possible. This is definitely a program well worth your time and I highly recommend it. Keeping in mind that this is coming from someone who is extremely judgmental :)
Spark is a stellar program! It is very low time-intensive way to strengthen your local community through empowering young people to boldly choose their career goals. The people working with Spark are flexible and positive. The only change I would want would be that I could be young and to have this opportunity!
I have been repeatedly impressed by Spark's success at engaging middle-school students. The staff is dedicated and creatively designs curriculum, effectively trains Apprentice Teachers, and tackles problems with ingenuity.
SPARK provides the only pre vocational experience for the young, at risk students. It gives these students optimism for their future. With so much been said about the downturn in the economy; this program gives hope for the students who are able to attend. I have learned much about the students families and the poverty the kids that I have worked with are going through. SPARK benefits this community and more businesses should adopt a student to experience why going to school can make the dreams they have come true.
This is a fantastic organization! Spark pairs each student with an adult in a position that interests them, and has them work together for about 10 weeks. Through this process, students have the opportunity to explore their interests, get motivated about doing well in school, and become more engaged in their community, . It's also great for the adults since the kids are so full of energy and interested in learning. It's definitely a nice break from the daily grind. :)
My experience with Spark was amazing! Working with children and cooking is something I have always wanted to do, but didn't know if it was really my niche. Through Spark, not only did I get the chance to help Pilar (my apprentice) realize her dream of becoming a pastry chef, but i also got to realize my own! Making everything from basic Buttercreams to chocolate cakes was a blast and completely worth every second. Also, the staff at Spark was very helpful, and you can tell that they love what they do! Each member that I met over the semester was very knowledgable and excited about the program.
Spark is a wonderful organization that seeks to empower middle school students in various ways. In part, this happens through apprentices in which students are paired with people in careers in which the students have expressed interest. Spark provides amazing support to its apprentice teachers - from dropping off the students for weekly meetings, to facilitating fieldtrips, and always being available for help creating a "plan" for the weekly meetings. A great volunteer experience.