SparkPoint at Community College: A Bright Spot in the Bay Area

By: Abby Cunningham

In our last post, we celebrated our 10-year anniversary of SparkPoint, the life-changing program that’s helping struggling Bay Area residents move up the economic ladder. At SparkPoint, individuals can receive financial coaching, debt-reduction help, career counseling and access to services through a network of over 90 third-party partners in our region.

One of its biggest successes has been at the community college level. In one study, for example, students at Skyline College were more likely to stay in school—a big accomplishment for working parents and young adults who often juggle multiple jobs just to stay afloat in the Bay Area. SparkPoint now serves students at 9 of our 23 community colleges, with more colleges expressing interest in the SparkPoint model. The approach emphasizes economic empowerment and education while serving as a hub for services like food, childcare and access to public benefits.

Once students graduate from a community college or job training program, they can look forward to more opportunities and bigger paychecks. Nationally, those with an Associate’s Degree earn about 18% more per week than those with a high school diploma, and those with a Bachelor’s Degree earn about 64% more according to the bureau of labor statistics. Unemployment also tends to drop significantly for those with college degrees.

The positive influence of even one success story has innumerable benefits for our region and our communities, particularly for those in underserved communities who are not yet riding the wave of technological prosperity.

“When I benefit, the community benefits because I am a part of the community,” explains Anna Jackson Hill, a client of SparkPoint. “When I thrive, that might help the next person see that and help them thrive also.”

Individual success stories have been a deep source of inspiration for us over the past 10 years, and the preliminary numbers have been encouraging. Now we’re going a step further with a robust evaluation by Public Profit, an independent consulting firm using data-driven metrics to evaluate our progress. Armed with additional data, we hope to serve more students in the most effective way, providing opportunities and a path forward for a new generation of bright, young minds. 

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