Spark! Business Incubator
The Parkway Alumni Association provides some support to Parkway's Spark! program for high-school students. The association has helped students connect with Parkway alumni who act as mentors and guest speakers for the program. In addition, the association sponsors an annual student pitch competition (a total of $1,000 is awarded to the top three winners) and provides occasional supplemental funding for the program from donations to the association's Annual Fund.
The Spark! program helps students develop an entrepreneurial mindset as they work to generate creative solutions to real-world problems. Each year, 30 high-school students (most are in their junior or senior year) are accepted into the program based on their application and a 60-second video pitch. They learn the fundamentals of entrepreneurship through the development of an early-stage company, social enterprise or nonprofit organization.
This experiential learning program takes place at an off-site workspace where students have the opportunity to research, conduct conferences, hear guest speakers, work with mentors and essentially operate their enterprise. The current site is located in Chesterfield Mall. Students in Spark! earn two elective credits.
The Spark! website contains comprehensive information about the program.
Some students in the Spark! program have received funds to help launch their business endeavor by getting an application approved for the Thomas Phelps Entrepreneurship Award and/or a grant through the Granting Dreams program, which are both administered by the PAA.
Parkway is the only K-12 public school district in the region that supports entrepreneurial ideas for high-school students with funding from its alumni association and educational resources from the district.
“The Parkway program is unique– it’s designed by a team of entrepreneurs, mentors and start-up business owners who are defining the essential outcomes for success in the St. Louis entrepreneurial ecosystem,” says Jennifer Stanfill, Parkway coordinator of career and technical education.
Prior to the program’s launch, approximately 50 local business professionals and entrepreneurs were given the opportunity to provide input into the Spark! program design. After the program was implemented, professionals provided in-kind services and mentoring to the students.