SPARK is a nonprofit organization focused on creating once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for 7th and 8th grade students to pursue a personal interest in a real workplace.
Yesterday, Mayor Emanuel met eighth grader and aspiring young pastry chef Isabel Martinez, the mayor was presented with an apple and a pumpkin pie. The apple and the pumpkin pie were proudly baked by Martinez under direction of her mentor, MK Restaurant pastry chef Stephanie Mazzone.
“Isabel is not only learning how to bake like a master pastry chef, she’s getting the unique experience of working right in a professional kitchen setting. These kinds of opportunities are critical for students across the city to gain the skills they need reach their goals,” said Mayor Emanuel. “I’m proud of the hard work Isabel has done to learn and grow with her mentor, and honored to receive not just one, but two hand-crafted pies for the holiday season.”
Martinez participates in the SPARK program, which pairs low-income Chicago teens with Chicago professionals as career mentors. Isabel is currently an eighth grader at Namaste Charter School in the McKinley Park neighborhood. Inspired by her father’s love of cooking, Isabel meets with her mentor Mazzone at MK Restaurant for two hours each week and enjoys the hands-on experience that the SPARK program and MK restaurant provides.
Founded in 2004 by teacher Chris Balme and Melia Dicker, SPARK aspires to help youth become motivated learners and connected community members and encourages adults to nurture the next generation through mentoring and volunteerism. Partnering with One Good Deed Chicago in the Success Coaches program, SPARK uses the one-on-one engagement to empower students to graduate and achieve their dream jobs.
Spark has grown rapidly since its inception. Enrollment grew by more than 50% year over year, and after five years, Spark expanded from the San Francisco Bay Area to Los Angeles in 2010 and Chicago in 2011, with plans to expand to Oakland and Philadelphia this year.
For more information about Spark, check out the Spark website.
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John is the author of an award-winning book, the 2010 Winner of the USA National Best Book award for African-American studies, published by The Elevator Group Mr. and Mrs. Grassroots: How Barack Obama, Two Bookstore Owners, and 300 Volunteers did it. Also available an eBook on Amazon. John is also a member of the Society of Midland Authors and is a book reviewer of political books for the New York Journal of Books