Partnering with Spark to Inspire Students and Mentors

May 01, 2015Alec Green

Jonathan is a seventh-grade student living in South L.A., about 15 miles from the Cornerstone office.  In many ways, he’s like any other pre-teen: inquisitive and confident, confused and easily distracted. 

In addition to his core curriculum at school, Jonathan is part of in an innovative student enrichment program called Spark.  Spark matches 7th and 8th graders with mentors working in career fields aligned with the students’ interests.  I have been Jonathan’s Spark mentor since February and we’re preparing to present his final project at Discovery Night in May.  Officially, we’re developing a business plan to manufacture and sell a street soccer ball.

Unofficially, I’m helping him figure out what he’s capable of doing and trying to inspire him to do even more.

At the beginning of the semester, Jonathan told me he wants to start his own business. Before long, I discovered that Jonathan has all the qualities of a successful entrepreneur. He is an active listener and asks insightful questions.  He is hungry to soak up information and confidently incorporates new concepts into our ongoing discussions.  And like any effective manager, he pushes me to help make his project a success.   

In our 8 weeks together, Jonathan isn’t going to learn how to launch a business. And that’s not really the point of these workplace apprenticeships.  He will, however, learn to recognize his innate strengths, how to set lofty goals, and be inspired to believe that he can achieve them.  In addition, Spark provides these students the opportunity to visit a new part of their city, interact with people from different backgrounds, discover new ways of communicating, and immerse themselves in a work environment very different from what they see on a daily basis.

There are more than 60 Spark mentors here at Cornerstone and hundreds more across the country. The 2-hour weekly apprenticeships are the most visible part of the program.  But there is a ton of work that goes on behind the scenes throughout the year to ensure an enriching experience for both the students and mentors, all of which falls on the shoulders of a small staff of Spark employees and volunteers.  Their team has done an amazing job creating a rich experience for the current number of students.  But in order to expand to more schools and cities, Spark had to rethink the way in which they deliver the program.  As Kelly Dwyer, Chief Knowledge Officer at Spark explained in an interview on our blog last year, online had to become a more significant part of the student and mentor experience.  To this end, The Cornerstone OnDemand Foundation awarded Spark a technology grant to develop SparkOnline - an online platform to deliver structured resources, project plans, eLearning and collaboration tools to both students and mentors.

We are proud to partner with Spark on this new learning initiative and excited to share the story of our work together in our new micro-documentary:

Please take 3 minutes to watch our new video on the Spark program and SparkOnline.  Share it with someone you would like to inspire. And consider the difference you could make in the life of a middle-school student by learning more about volunteer opportunities with Spark in your community.  

About Alec Green

As Chief Marketing Evangelist, Alec Green is responsible for developing the overall marketing plan and strategy for the Foundation, executing all outbound communications, increasing visibility of the Foundation’s programs, and building engagement with our partners... more

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