Just over two months ago, I accepted an invitation to participate in SPARK Chicago’s pilot season of apprenticeships. No, it’s not a reality show. It’s a real life mentoring program, focused on encouraging middle school students in underserved neighborhoods to stay in school.

SPARK matches each student in the program with a professional in his or her chosen field of interest for an eight-week internship of sorts. The student visits the workplace for two hours once-a-week, learning what it actually takes to, say, be a lawyer, or an architect, or, in my case, a dog trainer. I did my best to keep it on the down-low that one doesn’t actually need a college diploma to train a dog, but also stressed the importance of education both generally and specifically, as it relates to training and caring for animals intelligently and running a business.

Over the course of the two-month apprenticeship, teacher and student are expected to work together on a final project for presentation at Discovery Night at the student’s school. Below is the final project that I and dog training apprentice Tatoiniya Alcorn from Dodge Renaissance Academy put together over the weeks she spent learning and assisting at See Spot Run.


My thanks to Mila, the American Bull Terrier who stars in the above video, and to Rue the Rottweiler puppy, who accompanied Tatoiniya on stage at Dodge Renaissance Academy, and helped her demonstrate a little bit of her newly acquired knowledge.

© Ruth Crisler and Spot Check, 2011.