The holidays were a perfect time to slow down, reflect and prepare for a new year. In looking back on 2013, one of my personal “highlights” is the development of an emerging partnership with a growing organization to support the educational development of under privileged youth. SPARK is a non-profit organization that provides life-changing apprenticeships to underserved communities across the United States, including the Chicago land area. West Monroe Partners, headquartered in Chicago, partnered with SPARK to make a difference in our home community.
A little about SPARK: SPARK strengthens the communities they work in through two paths: by helping underserved youth become motivated learners and connected community members, and by encouraging adults to nurture the next generation through mentoring and volunteerism. Nearly all SPARK students come from neighborhoods where dropout rates exceed 30%. SPARK offers a unique program that re-engages underserved middle school students in their education through hands-on apprenticeships and leadership curriculum. SPARK partners with schools and workplaces in six cities coast-to-coast to match low-income 7th and 8th graders with mentors working in career fields aligned with the students’ strengths and interests. SPARK’s parallel in-school curriculum reinforces the link between classrooms and careers while helping students build skills key to success in the 21st century.
In an effort to give back and allow West Monroe’s employees to be a part of something greater, we established a Back 2 School Drive across the Chicago office. This program generated funds and supplies to support SPARK students and schools across Chicago. Students participating in the program are required to present their projects, which they complete as part of their apprenticeships, during a Discovery Night. This is an event attended by family, peers, community members and partner organizations. West Monroe gathered school supplies to support teachers and help these students put their best foot forward as they share their experience and accomplishments.
In order to provide an even greater level of support, West Monroe employees also presented SPARK with monetary donations. Through this partnership with SPARK, we collected over 4,000 supplies and donated $10,000 to their organization. Thanks in part to the tremendous success of this drive, all of SPARK Chicago’s over 180 students had access to the supplies they needed to showcase their hard work seen at Discovery Night ceremonies. We received some great feedback from teachers and students, alike! When asked about his project and how he is using his supplies, Spark student Avion said "it is basically wonderful but I can't tell you details - it is a secret!" It was so fulfilling to see the excitement among the students as well as the participating organizations!
As we usher in 2014, West Monroe is working very closely with SPARK to identify additional ways to support our emerging leaders! To learn more about SPARK or to learn how you can get involved in this organization, please visit their website today. Happy New Year!