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Spark at WBMS

WBMS Students Team Up with Spark Mentors

Every Wednesday, seventh-graders at Willie Brown L. Middle School load charter buses headed to some of the world’s top companies like Google, Salesforce, and Adobe. At the company, each student pairs with a mentor and together they tackle a project of the student’s choice.

For the first time, Willie Brown Middle School (WBMS) became one of few schools that offers students these mentorships through the Spark Bay Area program. Spark’s mission is to provide life-changing apprenticeships to middle school youth in underserved communities.

“It’s a new school, and we recognize that it's a community where a lot of partners want to get involved to provide support,” said Francis Kevers, managing director at Spark Bay Area. “We see middle school as the most formative years for our students.”

Spark Bay Area

Spark serves 120 WBMS students who work with mentors from 16 companies in the Bay Area. It’s the largest group of students that Spark has worked with at one school.

Spark Bay Area, founded in 2004, serves 300 students from schools in Palo Alto, Redwood City, Oakland and San Francisco. Spark also is at SFUSD’s Martin Luther King Middle School.

Two educators founded the program after experiencing how hands-on mentorships can help under-resourced youth build confidence, skills, and career awareness. The program has expanded nationwide to schools in Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia.

Mentoring at WBMS

At Willie Brown, Spark is aligned with the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) initiative. Many of the companies that students work with are STEM-based with experts who provide guidance on STEM career paths and projects.

“We have seen an increasing level of students advocating for themselves so they can take more away from the program overall,” said Kevers.

As seventh-graders, students meet with mentors and visit company sites for 10 weeks in the fall, and 10 weeks in the spring with a new group of mentors. At the end of each session, students and mentors present their projects at the school’s Share Your Spark event.

Next year, eighth-graders will participate in Spark’s “high school transitional program.” Parents and students learn about high school choices, and students build skills to succeed in high school.

To learn more about Spark, visit www.sparkprogram.org.