HNTB and SPARK LA program at Girls Academic Leadership Academy kicks off seventh year

STEM-focused curriculum continues to engage girls in engineering and leadership experiences relevant to Los Angeles infrastructure

LOS ANGELES (Feb. 8, 2023) – The successful SPARK LA program which started with a partnership between HNTB and the City of Los Angeles Department of Public Works, embarked on the program’s seventh year at Los Angeles Unified School District’s all-girls secondary school – the Girls Academic Leadership Academy: Dr. Michelle King School for STEM. This year’s program returned to being held in person at the school.

The SPARK program helps support a STEM curriculum – science, technology, engineering and math – which aims to attract more female students to pursue degrees and professions where they are traditionally are underrepresented.

“We are proud of our long-standing partnership with GALA and excited to provide another interactive STEM-focused program on a wide range of relevant transportation topics,” said Lilly Acuña, HNTB’s SPARK LA program leader.  “Each year, we hear so much positive feedback from the GALA students that it reinforces that we are truly making a difference in the lives and careers of future professionals.”

SPARK LA accepts applications from enrolled students for the free after-school program that kicked off this year on Feb. 1. The interactive program offers sessions related to infrastructure, including bridge and airport design, transit planning, cost and schedule, mobility and tunnelling. Each year, the sessions bring experts in various infrastructure fields into the discussion to guide students in hands-on projects to learn more about STEM careers and leadership in an open and engaging environment.

“HNTB recognized the current and future demand for architects, engineers and skilled trade professionals and implemented the SPARK program to ignite passion in middle and high school students toward careers in the built environment,” said Yoga Chandran, PE, HNTB Los Angeles office leader and senior vice president. “There is no greater need to develop this talent than in Southern California where infrastructure is well-funded and should be delivered locally.”

The successful SPARK LA program that began seven years ago with GALA, spurred the program’s expansion to add Schurr High School in the Montebello Unified School District last year. The four-week program concluded its inaugural year in 2022 with 29 students participating in sessions led by technical experts in the fields of tunnel design, bridge design, transit planning, and aviation, and resulted in some unexpected student benefits throughout the district.

When LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis and LA Metro CEO Stephanie Wiggins participated in a SPARK session, it led to ensuring that all students had access to the county-wide Metro Go-Pass Fareless Transit program. The program provides a free Metro GoPass for students to ride all buses and trains operated by Metro at no charge.

The second year of the SPARK LA Schurr Eastside program is scheduled to begin on March 14, 2023.

Across the country, HNTB engages in various programs and activities to create awareness with young people to inform them about careers in engineering, architecture and planning. In addition, many HNTB offices work with local organizations and schools to provide job shadowing opportunities for high school students so they may become familiar with potential careers in these fields. HNTB also supports employees who attend career day events at their local schools to present information on careers in engineering and transportation to elementary and middle-school students.