Situated between Philadelphia and a large Amish community, Coatesville, Pennsylvania is a former steel-mining town moving toward a post-industrial economy. The majority of its workforce supports the steel and service industries. Coatesville is home to a diverse racial and ethnic community.
The students at Gordon Middle School reflect Coatesville's diversity: 64 percent Caucasian and 36 percent minority. Most of the students come from either dual-income or single-parent families who struggle to balance work, school, and home lives.
The Sparks After-School Program has built students' interest in school and provided extra academic support in a safe and structured environment. Many of the initial 30 Sparks students were considered academically or socially at risk. After one year in operation, enrollment is 67, and students once at risk are now doing well academically. They're also joining extracurricular after-school activities in unprecedented numbers.