IDEA logo

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

Fertile Grounds Project

The Fertile Grounds Project provides innovative programming in and outside of schools. The programs allow young people to take control over their own education and build an identity in a world where they can belong.

Learn more

UP For Learning

UP for Learning helps educational institutions across the country fully engage students in their own learning through a research-based model that focuses on deepening youth-adult partnerships in schools.

Learn more