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EVENT: A SPARK for Chicago

EVENT DATE: Sep 12, 2015

Brandon Jones-Harris


Henock Beyen wrote -

"From a little spark may burst a flame." - Dante Alighieri

We’ve all had great mentors or exceptional individuals who have altered our lives for the better. Whether it was our parents, an older sibling, a teacher/professor, or colleague, we’ve had the opportunity to learn from those whom we have come to respect dearly and who have embodied traits we hope to instill in ourselves.

It wasn’t long after my move to Chicago that I began to gain insights around Chicago’s underserved and underfunded youth. [Side note-hats off to teachers and educators]. From discussions with educators to the recommendation of powerful books (‘There Are No Children Here’ - by Alex Kotlowitz), I wanted to find a way to give back - to give back to this to this city I had come to love and to do so by investing in it’s youth (future).

Many of us and those who we revere in our networks have had great joy and success in raising funds and awareness for causes we’re passionate about. Thus, I was confident that by leveraging my extended community and the networks of my friends and acquaintances, the collective could get a lot of good done. The result of that thought process is this campaign which has the overall goal of raising both awareness and funds for an exceptional cause that has produced phenomenal results for our city. So, let me first start by sharing a summary of the cause and upcoming events. [More updates to come]


Spark is a national nonprofit that re-engages underserved seventh and eighth grade students, keeping them on track and ready for success in high school and beyond through workplace-based apprenticeships that uniquely combine mentoring, project-based learning, skill building and career exploration.”

It’s core mission is to provide life-changing apprenticeships to youth in underserved communities across the United States. 

Why Spark?

I was actually introduced to Spark through a mentor of my own. We never discussed our roles as mentor and mentee, however, I certainly viewed her as a superior example and benchmark to the type of professional I strove to be -- highly respected, trusted and genuinely caring both in and out of the work setting. She motivated and lead by example, was driven and successful, yet humble, and had an enthusiastic willingness to share her guidance and knowledge. It didn’t take years of interactions to leave a lasting mark -- a spark that has had a profound result on my professional growth and was the foundation for my desire to mentor.

I’ve mentored through Spark since 2012 and can’t express more how profound of an organization it is. The stats are there (see below); Spark is changing the trajectory of students for the better and leading Chicago to a brighter future. I’ve always wanted to find a way to do more and give back to Chicago, thus, in collaboration with a network of charitable Chicagoans, will be hosting two events (afternoon and evening) on September 12th to bring awareness to Spark, increase the number of prospective mentors and raise funds for a results driven Chicago centric organization. Our goal is to raise $20,000. The fine folks at Spark have been integral in the planning thus far, are thrilled for whats to come and excited to help in any way they can. I’ve provided contact information is provided at the bottom of this page should you care to reach out.

  • Why should people donate to this cause?

    • If you’re are reading this page, I’m certain that you have a network of positive, fun-loving, and good hearted individuals. Thus, as a collective, there's a lot of good that can be done for this city that we all love and I’m hopeful that we can leverage our networks to do. Investing in this city’s youth is smart and is producing results.

    • Why the need?:

      • In the cities Spark serves, roughly 35% of students do not earn high school diplomas.

      • Nearly 70% of those dropouts did not complete ninth grade or repeated freshman year and dropped out later. The path to dropping out begins before high school, with as much as 60% of students becoming chronically disengaged.

    • Spark’s Impact:

      • Spark’s tailored apprenticeship program works.

        • 71% of Spark students improve their performance in school, 9 in 10 enter high school prepared and 92% have graduated or are on track to graduate.

Over the past couple years, Sean Griffin and the great folks at Chicago Primal Gym (CPG) have successfully hosted amazing fundraising events with the goal of raising funds and awareness for The Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation. I’m proud to be partnering with CPG to continue in leveraging our networks to collectively help make a change for the better and we’ll be putting together a great afternoon event comprised of team based competitions.


The Events:

Day Event Location: Chicago Primal Gym

Address: 3412 N Sheffield Ave, Chicago, IL 60657

Time: Tentatively 11am - 2pm

Overview: Team based competition. [More info to come]


Evening Event Location: The Buckingham Athletic Club

Address: 440 S Lasalle St. Chicago, IL 60605

Time: 9pm - 1am

Overview: Celebrating the close of the fundraiser over good music and cocktails


How can you help?:

  • Be sure to block Sept. 12th off on your calendars

    • ​A facebook group will be created to share updates and information around both the day and evening events. (PARTY!!). Tickets to the evening event will be available shortly after.
  • Donate and share the Crowdrise link

    • Heads up: many employers match charitable donations.

  • Spark is constantly recruiting mentors in all professions. Your networks are thriving with positive minded individuals who would do extremely well as mentors and can help change lives. If interested, please click here to learn more or to apply to become a mentor. Deadline for the fall session is August 28th

  • We’d love to have a great roster of raffle items and can use your help there. Please reach out with any ideas

Last, I would love your feedback and any helpful ideas you may have. Our goal is to optimize what can be raised for this great cause and make September 12th a great day of events that we all enjoy. Please contact me with any questions or thoughts on how we can make this an event to remember.


If you would like to participate in the event or volunteer to help out in any way, please contact me

Thank you for your support and generosity! It will go a long way in investing toward a better Chicago.


With love,



“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

― Mother Teresa

Click HERE to learn about mentoring through SPARK

The Team: $2,760 TOTAL RAISED SO FAR

Fundraiser Title

Henock Beyen

Amount Raised



133% Raised of $2,000 Goal

Fundraiser Title

Sean Mannion

Amount Raised


Fundraiser Title

Brandon Jones-Harris

Amount Raised


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