Watch out local innovators, Junior Achievement of Southern Massachusetts has launched Camp SPARK, a pilot program that focuses on providing 13 and 14 year-old girls with opportunities to explore entrepreneurial thinking and career preparedness.

An inaugural group of 23 young women completed the week-long residential program at Bridgewater State University on July 15th. Key supporters include Bridgewater State University, the Carney Family Charitable Foundation, Bristol County Savings Foundation, Ricciardi Financial Group, United Way of New Bedford's Summer Fund, Southcoast Hospitals Group, BayCoast Bank, Harbor Blue as well as individual donors.

"Camp SPARK was designed as a unique opportunity for girls from diverse backgrounds to come together and tap into their inner entrepreneur through fun, hands-on activities that will encourage life skills like resilience, adaptability, perseverance in the face of obstacles, resourcefulness, and open-mindedness," said Caroline Paradis, Junior Achievement president.

Following an application and interview process that began in early May, twenty-three young women were selected to make up the camp's inaugural group of participants.  This diverse troupe of future innovators includes individuals from New Bedford, Fall River, Taunton, Attleboro, Marion, Rochester, Dartmouth and Stoughton.

A unique combination of career exploration, entrepreneurship and social advocacy, the camp encouraged its participants to identify and address important issues facing the Southcoast. After selecting the topic of equality for their group projects, participants worked in teams of three with a project leader to create a product or service that addresses the issue in some way. The week concluded with a graduation ceremony, during which the girls presented their ideas to an audience of 125 people.

The impact of SPARK will go beyond the week-long camp itself, as participants will continue to meet periodically throughout the next year to expand on their ideas and put their plans into action.

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