Spark LA Youth Apprenticeships

submission by KKL

About Your Application

Organization(s) name(s):

Spark LA

Organization(s) website(s):

Organization(s) twitter handle(s):

Organization(s) facebook handle(s):

Please share the direct link for voters to sign up for your newsletter(s):

Describe Your Organization(s)

Non-profit organization

For-profit organization


Other (please specify below):

In one sentence, please describe what your organization does.


Spark LA brings middle school students from underserved communities into the workplace for one-on-one mentoring that results in long-term academic, personal, and professional success.

In one to three sentences, please describe your proposal.


What if everyday professionals could help improve LA’s dropout rate, right from their desks? By pairing students with mentors in exciting workplaces like Google and Hulu, Spark connects the dots between school and a future career.

69% of LA students drop out in 9th grade, but if mentors can ignite a spark in them—in 7th and 8th grade—students would be motivated to stay in school. With less than 1% of the LA workforce serving as a mentor, Spark could reach every off-track 7th and 8th grader.

Where will you be working? Please be specific (e.g. Third Street Middle School; Boyle Heights; LA County).

Central LA

East LA

San Gabriel Valley

San Fernando Valley

South LA


South Bay

Antelope Valley

County of Los Angeles (countywide)

City of Los Angeles (citywide)


Other (please specify below):

e.g. Third Street Middle School; Boyle Heights; LA County:

Spark is partnered with 6 LAUSD schools, as well as workplaces throughout the city.

How do you plan to use these resources to make change? (check all that apply)

Conduct research

Engage residents and stakeholders

Implement a pilot or new project

Expand a pilot or program

Mobilize for systems change

Advocate with policymakers and leaders

Implement and track policy

Other (please specify below):

How will your proposal improve the following “Learn” metrics? (check all that apply)

Percentage of children enrolled in early education programs

Percentage of community college students completing a certificate, degree, or transfer-related program in six years

Youth unemployment and underemployment

District-wide graduation rates

HS student proficiency in English & Language Arts and Math

Academic Performance Index* scores

College matriculation rates

Student education pipeline (an integrated network of pre-schools, K-12 institutions, and higher education systems that prepares students for seamless transitions between high school, higher education institutions, and the workforce) (Dream Metric)

Suspension and expulsion rates (Dream Metric)

Truancy rates in elementary and middle schools (Dream Metric)

Students perceived sense of safety at and on the way to school (Dream Metric)

Describe in greater detail how you will make LA the best place to learn.


If LA is going to be the best place to learn, learning cannot be isolated to schools, and the task of educating our youth cannot be given only to teachers. Spark engages working professionals throughout the city to mentor middle school students at-risk of dropping out, to be the next generation of architects, computer programmers, scientists, and more.

Spark LA takes traditional classroom education and expands it, connecting it with real-life workplaces. In the spring of 2010, Spark LA launched with 13 students and a big vision: to meaningfully impact LA’s education landscape. By 2050, Spark envisions every off-track LA student being matched with a mentor who inspires them to stay in school and graduate, effectively making LA the best place to learn.

In the current academic year, Spark LA is serving 350 LA students across 6 schools in underserved neighborhoods, such as Boyle Heights, East Hollywood, MacArthur Park, and South LA. We are also engaging over 600 mentors from over 20 of LA’s top companies, including Hulu, Cornerstone OnDemand, HBO, Union Bank, Wells Fargo Capital, Gensler, Pandora, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Not only do students and schools benefit, but LA’s top companies and their employees are directly engaged and supporting local education efforts. Spark provides companies with a turnkey employee engagement program. Mentors using Spark to build relationships across departments at their company, in addition to networking with mentors from other companies. 98% of mentors report that they are ‘proud’ their company partners with Spark, thus increasing employee brand loyalty and engagement.

What’s more, the Spark Program works! Our results to date have shown that 89% of Spark students finish 8th grade on track for on time high school graduation, compared to 70% of their peers. Furthermore, 92% of Spark alumni have graduated high school on time, or are on track to do so, far surpassing local and national graduation rates of 70% and 80%, respectively.

Spark LA is building a movement, with the goal of serving entire schools and neighborhoods by 2050. As more students see the relevance of their education through Spark, local graduation rates will improve, and youth will have the skills and career exposure that will help them succeed in their academic, professional, and personal lives. Imagine all at-risk LA students being matched with a mentor; what a great city in which to learn!

Please explain how you will evaluate your work.


By 2050, Spark wants to match every struggling LA middle schooler with a mentor from a local workplace. To achieve this, we need to build long-term partnerships with more schools, as well as with the biggest companies in LA. We need to deepen our engagement with each of our current corporate partners by involving more employees each semester. Additionally, we need to launch new partnerships with companies that are excited about getting their employees involved.

By 2050, Spark wants every LA student to finish 8th grade on track for graduation. To do so, we help struggling 7th and 8th graders to improve their social/emotional and workforce skills, and school performance. To evaluate our progress, we have a data-sharing agreement with LAUSD through which we track students’ grades and attendance records. We also have students, parents, teachers, and mentors complete pre-, mid-, and post-program surveys geared towards tracking changes in students’ social/emotional and workforce skills.

How can the LA2050 community and other stakeholders help your proposal succeed? (check all that apply)

Money (financial capital)

Volunteers/staff (human capital)

Publicity/awareness (social capital)

Infrastructure (building/space/vehicles, etc.)


Technical infrastructure (computers, etc.)

Community outreach

Network/relationship support

Quality improvement research

Other (please specify below):

15 Pink talk bubble tail c96b4a07ef1417e25d0bcf5c4cba4766b8bbf0382f07677990a9d5577885d4d7

Spark is such a powerful tool to help our younger generation to believe in their self and make their dreams come true.

by StinkerB55125
6 months ago

Spark is bridging the gap between where kids are and showing them where their true potential can lead them. Spark is changing the narrative!!!

by jashepard
6 months ago

Way to go Spark for helping student's connect what they learn in the classroom with what working professionals do in the real world!

by telgabal
6 months ago

Spark is like the real world equivalent of a really fantastic world problem: it shows students the immediate, concrete relevance of the skills they're building in school. More than that, it helps connect professionals to their own communities, broadening horizons for everyone involved.

by KatieBent
6 months ago

What better way to invest in the future of our society by investing our future leaders and giving them the tools to succeed? GO SPARK!!!

by christine_juang
6 months ago

Spark helps kids find relevance in their school work and build professional skills to set them up for a brighter future!

by jeongalex
6 months ago

Love this video! What a great way to engage students in their education earlier and give them access to role models outside of their schools and immediate communities.

by NEgenolf
6 months ago

Giving back during the workday is a convenient and powerful way to help local students build skills for success and explore career options.

by rdamminger
6 months ago

Spark is helping kids connect the dots from their classroom to their future career. Mentorship can have a such a HUGE impact!

by SeanLucano
6 months ago

Spark's mentors are creating a movement throughout LA. What a powerful way to give back--changing lives right from their desks!

by Yoon_Choi
6 months ago

Spark LA is a wonderful resource for middle school students and working professionals. These apprenticeships provide a space for middle school students to express their creativity while also being introduced to the professional world, and develop life learning skills that are essential to our every day lives. This is definitely a program I wish was around back when I was in middle school.

by Gilma
6 months ago

I'm all for reducing the school dropout rates in our community. Let's get to a 100% graduation! #Mentoringmatters

by Juan_David
6 months ago

Go Spark LA! Mentoring and Middle School matter! What a wonderful way to provide students from under-resourced communities with access to the resources and opportunities which are so important to their success.

by scordova
6 months ago

Mentoring really does matter! Spark not only makes a huge impact on the lives of underserved middle school students but the program also gives an opportunity for companies to connect with their communities and engage their employees.

by JBerridge
6 months ago

Such a great idea to engage everyday Angelenos in the work of educating our youth.

by KKL
6 months ago

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Award topvotedidea 5a5ae14e3d56a10363ea2a398cece46cf4df891213cbe68677c19d8903a1932a
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Submission Began
Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Submission Ended
Tuesday, October 06, 2015
at 07:00 PM UTC

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Voting Began
Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Voting Ended
Tuesday, November 03, 2015
at 08:00 PM UTC

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Winner Announced
Tuesday, December 08, 2015