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 is introducing students to different careers through virtual Spark Lab workshops. Penn volunteers will host their workshop October 14!
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.