Middle Schoolers and Mentors Celebrate Careers

Namaste middle-schoolers Orlando (left) and Tony (right) show off the drone they created with Carlos Ortiz, their mentor, from Google. Photo credit: Matt De Grand, Bright Matter Photography

Nearly 400 CPS middle-school students and mentors from companies including Google, KPMG, Lenovo and Tyson took time to celebrate last Friday at Daley Plaza during Share Your Spark.

Students took part in 10-13 week immersion programs where they met with their mentors at their workplaces to develop projects. Last Friday’s event was a celebration and showcase of their efforts. Since 2011, Spark has provided after-school career exploration and mentoring to nearly 2000 CPS students.

Partnering schools include:

Ariel Community Academy, Chavez Multicultural Academic Center, Deneen School of Excellence, Dewey School of Excellence, Frazier International Magnet School, Kellman Corporate Community School, Fiske Elementary, Legacy Charter School, Namaste Charter School, National Teachers Academy, and Bass Elementary.

The learning showcased at Share Your Spark is just one component of a Spark student’s journey. Through the Spark High School Pathways (HSP) program, students take part in workshops that allow them to make informed decisions about high school options. This year, 350 eighth-grade students used the Spark Pathfinder to help them select the right options for them in GoCPS, the new single-application system for CPS high schools.

“As a CPS principal and parent of a former Spark student, I have seen the impact of Spark on multiple levels,” says Principal Carolyn Jones of Bass Elementary. “Spark makes the connection between school and future careers real for students who may not get the exposure otherwise.”

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Maureen Kelleher

Maureen Kelleher

Maureen Kelleher is a senior writer and editor at Education Post, but before that she spent a decade as a reporter, blogger and policy analyst. Her work has been published across the education world, from Education Week to the Center for American Progress. Between 1998 and 2006 she was an associate editor at Catalyst Chicago, the go-to magazine covering Chicago’s public schools. There, her reporting won awards from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the International Reading Association and the Society for Professional Journalists. A former high school English teacher, she is also the proud mom of an elementary student at Chicago’s Namaste Charter School. Find her on Twitter at @KelleherMaureen.

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