An Effective Practice


Spark is a national organization that develops apprenticeship programs for middle school students from disadvantaged backgrounds who are at risk of dropping out of high school. The program aims to combat the growing high school dropout crisis across the US by motivating struggling students and demonstrating the relevance of education.

Each student in the program identifies his or her "dream job," and is then paired with a volunteer professional in that field. Students receive one-on-one mentorship, gain hands-on experience in their desired careers, and participate in leadership classes that help them tie their experiences outside the classroom with the lessons they learn in school.

Spark was founded in 2005. It is largely funded by charitable foundations, but also receives support from corporations and individuals.

Goal / Mission

Spark's mission is to provide life-changing apprenticeships to youth in underserved communities across the United States.

Results / Accomplishments

Spark found that 98.2% of students who participated in the first year of the program graduated high school on time, compared to 50-60% of their peers in a similar demographic. In addition, surveys of Spark students have shown that 95% of mentees feel that participating in the program improved their self-confidence, motivation, goal-setting, teamwork, financial literacy, public speaking, and networking/resourcefulness. Furthermore, 97% of students reported greater interest in learning after participating in Spark, and 77% of Spark mentees found that they were more interested in school. Spark is on track to creating its 1,000th apprenticeship in 2011.

About this Promising Practice

Primary Contact
Chris Balme, Co-Founder & Executive Director
251 Rhode Island Street, Suite 205
San Francisco, CA 94103
Education / Student Performance K-12
Date of implementation
Geographic Type
San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago
For more details
Target Audience
Children, Teens