Show Us Your Good: Spicy Squid and the Saltwater Syndicate

Luis and his Spark mentor, Burton, of IDEO

by Amanda Kilibarda, Spark Chicago Outreach Coordinator and AmeriCorps VISTA

[Note:This is part of a guest blogging series highlighting good deeds across Chicago. If you have a story to share, we want to hear it! Email]

This fall over 80 professionals around Chicago opened up their offices to middle school “apprentices” to give them the opportunity to experience their dream jobs through a newly landed nonprofit in Chicago called Spark.

This, in itself, shows that a tremendous amount of “good” is still out there floating around Chicago. Each of our students embraced the experience to learn something new, have fun, and form a new friendship, but I’d like to share the story of one student-mentor team who really stand out.

The moment I met Luis I knew he knew more about computers than I did. This obviously bright student had big plans for what he saw as his “dream” job. We knew he had tons of potential, so we paired him up with a similarly enthusiastic mentor named Burton at IDEO, a design firm.

The first session they did a group brainstorm activity to introduce thinking outside the box. The assignment: How to transport squid from one zoo to another. The catch: You have to draw your answer! Luis didn’t skip a beat! Ideas of fish tanks and trucks were too boring for him. His answer? Trampolines, of course! Burton’s eyes lit up at his student’s creativity, and Voila! The game “Spicy Squid and the Saltwater Syndicate” was born.

Imagine Burton’s delight when the next week the eager-to-learn Luis brought back a notebook filled with completed homework…that he had never been assigned. With character drawings in hand, the two got started on their big idea.

Burton saw how passionate Luis was about learning about his career, and it inspired him to go above and beyond his commitment as a mentor. After 8 weeks of working tirelessly together, this dynamic duo presented their project at Spark’s Discovery Night ceremony, complete with posters, an action figure, and a game demo! They had such a great time developing their game that Burton and Luis are continuing to work together post-Spark. Look out world, “Spicy Squid and the Saltwater Syndicate” is bouncing over to a mobile device near you! (Check out their demo! )

This is only one example of the amazing work that mentors do that can truly create a life-changing experience for their students. Without volunteers, none of these experiences would have been possible for our students. Our mentors’ enthusiasm, dedication, and heart are what truly inspire me every day.

To learn more about Spark or apply to be an apprentice teacher, visit Spark’s profile on the One Good Deed Chicago site.

4 thoughts on “Show Us Your Good: Spicy Squid and the Saltwater Syndicate

  1. Burton, who would of though? It makes happy that I know someone like you, kind and generous with your time and skills.No doubt Luis is on his way to great achievements thank, partially, to your mentoring.

  2. Here is a proud Auntie sending you BIG KUDOS for sharing your spectacular expertise and realizing that as teachers we also have much to learn from our students!!! Way to go letting those creative juices flow and grow ideas and knowledge with the upcoming generation! You GO, Burtie Michael!!! Much love to you always, Jannie

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