Spark lights a fire in the dropout fight

As students, Chris Balme and Melia Dicker watched many of their peers disengage from their studies, their friends, their communities and their futures — all because they simply couldn't find anything that sparked their interest in school. Others, they saw, graduated high school — and then college — without knowing what they wanted to do, or how to do it, once they received their degree.

Later, as teachers and mentors, Balme and Dicker founded Spark, a program that facilitates one-on-one apprenticeships intended to inspire middle-school youth to pursue their interests, create bonds with their communities, and develop a lifelong passion for learning.

Building on the success of an 11-student pilot program in Redwood City, Calif. in 2005, Spark has expanded to serve several communities in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles and is now opening a program in Chicago.

Though it has grown quickly, the program's core approach remains the same: Enable students to develop as leaders and learners as they pursue a personal learning interest through hands-on apprenticeships.

And it's working: About 98 percent of Spark's participants are on track to graduate, compared to less than 60 percent of their peers, according to the organization. 

For more information, visit


Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <ul> <ol> <li>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.