Spark Philadelphia

About Spark Philly

By connecting middle school students with working professionals, Spark Philadelphia helps students learn about careers by connecting them with caring adults who have jobs that they may dream of having themselves.  These experiences inspire many Spark students, and their progress through high school is monitored to assess the impact of Spark's programming.


Each year since 2013, volunteers from Penn have hosted Spark middle school students from Henry C. Lea Elementary School. A unique feature of Spark programming that helps busy adults make time to get involved is that the Spark students visit professionals at their workplaces in the afternoon after school.  Since Spring 2020, Spark has adapted their programming to protect the safety of their students and volunteers, in light of the coronavirus pandemic.  It is hoped that in-person connections will be possible again to safely perform in the future.

This fall 2020, Spark plans to introduce students to different careers through virtual Spark Lab workshops. Virtual Spark Labs are hosted by Spark staff. Each session is kicked-off with a short career exploration activity facilitated by the company. Spark staff then guide volunteers and students through a social-emotional skill activity surrounding a real-world problem and wrap up the session with a group reflection. This year, our workshop will be held in late October or November.  Please reach out through the survey above if you would like to get involved in planning or participating in the event!

In the spring, a volunteer mentor is paired with a middle school student for an extended (~10 sessions, weekly meetings) career exploration project where the student's interests and the mentor's expertise drive the project's objectives.  In past years, students were transported to Penn after school to work at their mentor's workplace Wednesdays 3-5 pm.  Since Spark is planning for all virtual programming this year, the plan for the spring semester is still being considered at this time.

How can you get involved?

Spark is looking for volunteers to help with virtual Spark Lab workshops, and to become new mentors this spring.

Spark Philadelphia is a great opportunity for Penn community members looking to develop interpersonal skills and give back to a West Philadelphia school community.  Please fill out this interest survey if you would like to get involved with Spark this 2020-2021 school year!  To learn more, read further below, and to ask questions, please email volunteerphiladelphia@sparkprogram.org