Spark Announces Funding for New Content on Interactive Online Learning Platform
July 14, 2015
Spark, a national nonprofit youth mentoring organization, today announced $180,000 in funding from the All Points North Foundation (APNF) to be used over three years in developing training and educational content for its interactive online learning platform.
Spark re-engages underserved seventh and eighth grade students, keeping them on track and ready for success in high school and beyond through workplace-based apprenticeships that uniquely combine mentoring, project-based learning, skill building and career exploration. Students and mentors meet for 10 weeks in the spring and fall and use “Spark Online,” a web-based learning platform, to guide their experience and track their learning.
“Feedback from Spark mentors and staff informed our multi-year technology project, bringing elements of our mentoring and apprenticeship program to a unique and secure online space,” said Kelly Dwyer, Spark’s Chief Knowledge Officer. “With added support from the All Points North Foundation, we can invest in new content for the Spark Online Institute, which is comprised of training materials including animated learning videos that help students develop positive mindsets about learning and school.”
With funding from APNF, content in the Spark Online Institute will orient mentors in using the Spark Online platform to lead their apprenticeships, covering topics including how to work with young adolescents, how to build skills for success and how to employ mentoring best practices. The Spark Online Institute will also aid teachers in using Spark Online to implement Spark’s curriculum in their classroom, help students build social emotional skills and connect apprenticeship learning and classroom learning.
APNF made its first investment in Spark in 2012, funding apprenticeship programming for students in Chicago. Since that time, the partnership has grown to help more than 800 students nationwide.
“We are thrilled to award our first multi-year grant to Spark and to further our support for the important work they do with middle school students in underserved communities across the country,” said Laura Staich, Executive Director of the All Points North Foundation. “We believe that all students should have equal opportunity and access to realize their goals and potential. This multi-year grant demonstrates our commitment to this goal and our belief in the work being done by Spark.”
After a successful pilot this spring, more than 1,000 Spark students enrolled in the organization’s 2015-16 program nationwide – along with their teachers and mentors – will utilize the Spark Online platform and gain access to the Spark Online Institute content.