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Reinventing Education

strategically, collaboratively, and sustainably


Spark is a national nonprofit that provides life-changing apprenticeships to middle school students from disadvantaged communities. Spark's one-on-one workplace apprenticeships empower young people to succeed in their education and beyond.


Spark’s mission is to provide life-changing apprenticeships to youth in underserved communities across the United States. Founded in 2004 by teachers Chris Balme and Melia Dicker, Spark has aspired to strengthen the community in two ways: by helping youth become motivated learners and connected community members, and by encouraging adults to nurture the next generation through mentoring and volunteerism.

One of the greatest social justice issues of our time is the increasing high school dropout rates in neighborhoods of highest need. Spark addresses the dropout crisis by connecting volunteer professionals with underserved youth in workplace apprenticeships to “spark” their potential. Students identify a “dream job,” and Spark matches that student with a mentor doing that job. These apprenticeships are complemented by a leadership class, which helps students connect apprenticeship learning to school. As students explore the school-to-career connection, they build skills critical for academic success, gain a strong appreciation for the relevance of their education, and become motivated to work hard to achieve their dreams.

Spark has sites in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and Chicago, and it will be expanding to Oakland and Philadelphia in 2012.


Chris Balme, Executive Director

Other Members

Kennedy School of Sustainability

The Al Kennedy High School, in Cottage Grove, Oregon serves approximately 90 students in grades 9 through 12, and post-secondary level. It has a tradition of outdoor adventure, academic excellence, a dedicated faculty, and a history of educating young people to find their place in the community and the world.

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Lyons Community School

The Lyons Community School, located in Brooklyn, NY, provides a broad, stimulating experience in the liberal arts, preparing students in grades 6 - 12 for college, healthy adulthood, and life-long learning.

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