National Youth Apprenticeship Nonprofit Advocates for Middle Schoolers at 2014 Building a GradNation Summit in Washington, DC

Share Article

Spark CEO, Jason Cascarino, and fellow panelists present the case that investing in resources for the middle grades can reengage students and help increase graduation rates

News Image
Together, we must re-commit to middle grades education - in school and out of school - to focus on motivation and engagement so that kids stay invested in education.

Jason Cascarino, CEO of Spark - a national nonprofit youth apprenticeship program - will represent the organization at the 2014 Building a GradNation Summit in Washington, DC on April 28. Cascarino will present with leading representatives from the Middle School Matters Institute at The Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk, an initiative of the George W. Bush Institute; the National Human Services Assembly; and After-School All-Stars at the annual event. The Summit brings together a powerfully diverse group of community organizations, national nonprofits, school systems, business leaders, government officials of all levels, parents and youth to examine the progress and remaining challenges in the nation’s efforts to increase high school graduation rates and prepare youth for success in college and career.

The theme of this year’s Summit is Pulling Together, with all sessions and information focused on the idea that it will require all sectors of the community to help more young people stay on the road to graduation – keeping them from veering towards the off-ramps, and creating more on-ramps.

In their presentation, “The Class of 2020: Betting on Middle School,” Cascarino and fellow panelists will make the case that to increase graduation rates, additional resources are needed to reengage seventh and eighth graders in education. Spark's apprenticeship approach and built-in mentoring target the main drivers of students' motivation and engagement, helping them to connect real-world careers with classroom learning.

“The Building a GradNation Summit is unique because it is the only event in the nation where all sectors can come together under one roof to discuss progress and strategy in this united effort to raise graduation rates and support our students,” said Cascarino. “Together, we must recommit to middle grades education - in school and out of school - to focus on motivation and engagement so that kids stay invested in education.”

America’s Promise hosts the Summit in partnership with the Alliance for Excellent Education, Civic Enterprises and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Education. Summit sponsors include: GradNation Presenting Sponsor State Farm®, AT&T and Target.

“We have a lot of reasons to be optimistic about the progress we’re making,” said John Gomperts, president and CEO, America’s Promise Alliance. “Graduation rates are rising but this work will never be finished until we’ve closed the achievement and opportunity gaps that persist for too many youth. This Summit is a special opportunity for the people, organizations and communities engaged in this work to measure progress and recommit ourselves to the cause.”

Summit attendees will have the opportunity to learn the latest data on national and state level graduation rates as well as the latest ideas for what works in increasing graduation rates and preparing students for success in school, college, career and life. They will hear from some of the nation’s most revered practitioners and thought leaders on: middle school, early warning systems, positive peer influence, college- and career-readiness standards, STEM and design thinking rapid innovation labs. The full summit agenda can be found at

About Spark
Spark apprenticeships bring underserved middle school students out of the classroom and into the workplace for individualized mentoring that results in educational success and powerful career ambitions. The evidence-based program combats the high school drop out crisis and keeps students academically on track and invested in their futures by intervening during formative years. Since 2004, Spark has helped thousands of students explore careers and build new skills through tailored, hands-on apprenticeships with volunteer, working professionals. Throughout the one-year program, Spark students develop their identity, build community and explore their future, which leads to improved attendance, classroom behavior and course performance. Spark changes the lives of middle schoolers in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia. Learn more, mentor, partner and donate at

About The Building a GradNation Summit
The Building a GradNation Summit is the premier annual event of the GradNation campaign. Launched in 2010, the GradNation campaign is a large and growing movement of dedicated individuals, organizations and communities working together to raise the national high school graduation rate to 90 percent by 2020, with no school graduating fewer than 80 percent of its students on time. To learn more visit

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Rachelle Damminger
+1 (856) 904-5767
Email >
since: 03/2009
Follow >
since: 07/2010
Like >
Visit website