Group of children in front of door
July 27, 2018

Opening the Doors of Opportunity

Spark Academy joins PA's PALS program
by Allyson Irish

With much excitement, the PALS program welcomed Spark Academy as a new partner school this summer. Spark now becomes the 4th Lawrence, Mass. partner school along with UP Academy Oliver, UP Academy Leonard, and Parthum Elementary School.

Tom Bean, a cofounder of Spark and self-described “head cheerleader” of the public middle school, says the partnership with PALS is all about providing opportunity and fits perfectly with Spark’s mission to empower young people to reach their potential.

“I tell students that it’s my job to tell them where the door to opportunity is and it is their job to walk through the door,” Bean says.

For some of the students, the PALS program was not their first visit to campus. Bean takes students each year to visit the Addison Gallery of American Art and to tour the campus. Students also have the chance to see other high-achieving high schools and colleges through programs at Pingree, Governor’s Academy, and MIT.

Established in 1988, PALS (Phillips Academy, Andover High School, and Lawrence Schools) is a two-year program that connects middle schoolers with high school mentors for academic enrichment, study skills, and career path possibilities.

Spark Academy is the 4th Lawrence, Mass. school to partner with PALS. Other schools include UP Academy Oliver, UP Academy Leonard, and Parthum Elementary School.

The first cohort of Spark Academy students and Tom Bean, cofounder of the school

Located in southeast Lawrence, Spark serves approximately 470 middle school children in grades 6 through 8. The school was founded in 2012 in the midst of an educational crisis where all Lawrence public schools were placed in state receivership. That August, Spark opened with a unique philosophy: to offer rigorous academics along with 100 minutes of daily movement as a part of an extended school day. The results have been extraordinarily positive. 

In 2012, Spark was a Level 4 (failing) school; by 2016 the school had risen to Level 1, the state’s highest ranking. And according to Bean, Spark has had more students admitted to Abbot Lawrence Academy, the city’s only exam high school, than any other middle school in Lawrence. This year, 23 eighth-graders were accepted out of a total graduating class of approximately 160. 

The partnership will continue to build on the strong foundation of academic success at both schools. “We are thrilled to establish this relationship between Spark and PALS,” Bean said.  

Categories: Outreach

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