Annual Internship 2017

Annual Internship 2017

Get ready Twin Cities! Youth from around the country are gearing up for our 7th annual summer internship and this year’s group of youth are going to fuel our most ambitious sustainable bootcamp to-date.

Here’s what you need to know:

Interns selected through our application process will spend six weeks contributing to our nonprofit organization through hands-on projects that create real-world economic outcomes for our community partners.  Youth chosen will experience working in tight teams, learning about sustainability and entrepreneurship through dedicated projects. Youth and teams are chosen based on experience, desired area of focus, and education background.  To create an atmosphere of teamwork and diverse contribution, interns of different ages and aptitudes work in groups to build and support one-another throughout the summer.


This year’s internship runs from July 5 - August 11.

Interns base out of our Minneapolis office and Urban Agriculture Lab: 4432 Chicago Ave. S
Minneapolis, MN 55407.

The internship is 3 days a week (Tue-Thur; 10am-5pm) roughly 20hrs / week.  Interns range from 14-24 years in age, high school, college students and graduates welcome to apply.

Deadline for application is April 9.

Further details are listed at the bottom of the Annual Internship page here.

“Spark-Y has given us the confidence to know that we can do this.  For instance, I had never worked with power tools before, I knew nothing about timber framing, and I didn’t really ever go to big meetings or anything like that.  Now I’m doing all of it. And now I feel, if I wanted to do almost this exact same thing - I feel like I have confidence that I could work with it and do it again.” 
- Makenna, 2016 Spark-Y intern
Beltrami Pavilion Team Leader

Why Spark-Y:

Youth everywhere are taking notice of social and environmental injustices throughout the country. And more than ever, these young people want to make a positive difference while growing their access to healthy food, information, sustainable practices, and organizations that support the causes they believe in.

At Spark-Y, we created a summer internship to give voice to youth. Here, young people have the support of an entire nonprofit organization that knows the value of youth-grown ideas. Our 6-week internship pairs like-minded individuals together, catalyzing fresh ideas, inspired action, and remarkable outcomes.

Let’s highlight a few from previous years’ internship teams:

Learn. Grow. Gain job experience.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), via Pathways to Prosperity, the top 5 attributes employers seek are:

  1. Leadership
  2. Teamwork
  3. Written Communications
  4. Problem Solving
  5. Verbal Communications

These attributes align with Spark-Y’s 5 Keys of Professional Development, principals we not only mentor our youth with but also practice as interns, staff, and leaders.

Trademark Spark-Y: Youth Action Labs, "5 Keys of Professional Development."

We credit the success of our internship to youth using not just learning about professional development, but practicing it in the field and in their teams. By the end of the 6-week internship, youth have actionable outcomes that can be added to their resume and shared with future employers.  

Past interns at Spark-Y have gone on to lead teams during the next internship, gain employment, and gain admittance to schools and specialized programs.  Many of our interns have gone on to use their experiences for entrepreneurial pursuits, creating their own sustainable business models.

Get involved

If you are interested in applying for our internship, please review the details on our Annual Internship page.

Community members or individuals looking to engage our interns in partnerships can contact us at

We look forward to a summer of big ideas, youth-driven action, and results that build closer communities, healthier environments, and lasting change.

Shark Tank Gains Citywide Attention

Shark Tank Gains Citywide Attention

Spark-Y has always been about empowering youth and letting students take control of their education and their future, and students who participate in Shark Tank events in Spark-Y programs get to do just that. These activities are great learning experiences for all ages and have been used throughout the semester in all kinds of schools, including Northeast Middle School, Prairie View Elementary, and Edison High School in the EASY Pro program!

Shark Tanks are an interdisciplinary activity that showcase the student ideas for the design and utilization of the sustainable systems being installed through their Spark-Y program. Preparing their ideas, designs and pitches is often an intensive group project – a great opportunity to practice those all-important teamwork skills in a supported way. Shark Tanks, where students pitch their projects to a panel of experts or community members, also allow students to showcase their developing professional skills, including greetings and handshakes, oral and visual communication, and problem solving and critical thinking. Students get the opportunity to take real ownership, not only of these projects and their education, but also of the bigger developments on their school campus’.

The Shark Tank event at Northeast Middle School on Friday Jan 13th is one that will go down in Spark-Y history! 7th graders pitched their aquaponics system designs and utilization plans to an all-star panel of professionals from the school district, and city and state leadership. We were so humbled to have the following wonderful people support our students:
Mayor Betsy Hodges, Senior Policy Adviser to the Mayor Phillipe Cunningham, Council Member Kevin Reich, Senator Jim Carlson, Michael Thomas MPS Chief of Academics, Leadership & Learning, Macarre Traynham MPS Executive Director of Teaching and Learning, Naomi Taylor MPS Co-Chair of Pedagogy of Equity, Ed Graff MPS Superintendent, Betsy Stretch MPS STEM Curriculum Integration Specialist , Eric Moore MPS Chief of Accountability, Innovation, & Research, Susanne Griffin MPS Deputy Chief Academic Officer, Jenny Arneson MPS Board of Education Treasurer, Jackie Hanson MPS Associate Superintendent and Vernon Rowe Principal of Northeast Middle School.


To top it all off – the Mayor proclaimed Friday Jan 13th 2017 to be Northeast Middle School / Spark-Y Sustainability day in the City of Minneapolis!

What a powerful way to show these kids that they are seen, they are heard, and they are respected leaders in our community. Shout out to a community that shows up for youth!

Garden to Cafeteria at Edison High School

Garden to Cafeteria at Edison High School

It might be the middle of winter here in Minnesota, but it’s never too early to start thinking about spring gardening! At Edison High School in Northeast Minneapolis, the Edison Entrepreneurial Academy has been making great strides on their Green Campus initiatives, one of which include beginning a year-round Garden to Cafeteria program, with the goal of providing the Edison cafeteria with fresh produce grown and harvested from both indoor and outdoor school gardens.

Framing out the new aquaponics system.

Framing out the new aquaponics system.

Before winter break class was visited by Kate Seybold of Minneapolis Public School’s Culinary and Wellness Center. Kate was very excited to hear about the interest from Edison students to bring fresh and local food right into their cafeteria and was happy to discuss the district’s Farm To School and Garden to Cafeteria programs. It was a great chance for students to learn about why getting fresh, local produce to our schools is so important and how our students can help achieve those goals.

Students participating in the Garden To Cafeteria initiative have already met with cafeteria staff to talk about what they hope to accomplish and to decide which vegetables and herbs would be most beneficial to grow in their garden spaces. Within a couple of months they will begin planting and caring for the outdoor greenhouse and the soon-to-be completed aquaponics system that the Edison EASY-pro class is currently constructing. Until then, they will be researching and writing their food safety plan to ensure proper precautions are being taken by every student, staff member, or volunteer involved.

This project is providing a full range of professional development opportunities and agricultural skills practice for Edison students! It’s wonderful to see our students take such an interest in sustainability and to be working towards such big goals!

Why Hands-On Building Matters

Why Hands-On Building Matters

As a Spark-Y staff member working primarily in the office, I experience most of our programs second-hand through our capable education facilitators. This week, however, I was thrilled to leave my desk and computer for a day and join Hill-Murray School’s eighth grade class’ vermicompost system build.

The vermicompost system, which will use worms to compost the cafeteria’s food waste, was designed and prepped by Spark-Y’s Operations Director, Sam, and assembled almost entirely by students. Eighth graders worked in teams to make measurements, cut planks, drill holes, and put the system together—often participating in construction for the first time ever. Students obviously love the break in routine a build day offers, but for an eighth grader, building something during the school day isn’t just an excuse to ditch the classroom and spend time outside. It’s a deeply impactful and empowering learning experience.

At the build students demonstrated the benefits of hands-on learning over and over again. One eighth grader, reluctant to try using a power tool, stood at the back of her group and told me she was scared of the saw. I coaxed her over, and timidly the student marked her measurement, lined up the wood plank, made the cut, and looked up grinning. She asked, “Can I do another one? That was so fun!” She performed the next cut confidently and without fear, wearing a big smile the entire time.

Another student explained to me that she couldn’t help with measurements because she’s “bad at math.” We did the first measurement together and thirty minutes later she was still at the measuring table telling a friend, “I love making measurements! I’m so good at it!” This student, who didn’t think she was good at math, spent 45 minutes calculating measurements and feeling valued, smart, and capable.

When students build things with Spark-Y they face fears with confidence and determination. They learn the meaning of “I can do it” and “I’m good at this.” They learn what empowerment felt like while making their school a more sustainable campus. The best part of all that learning: the students have fun while doing it! And that’s what Spark-Y is all about!