Business & Development

A ‘spark’ of inspiration 

Hands-on opps for youth coming to Booth-Kelly


SPRINGFIELD — “Sparks” will soon be flying at the Booth-Kelly Center in Springfield — ones that will intersect community, education, and business for the county’s young and underserved population. 

This spring, Connected Lane County, an organization which creates educational and occupational opportunities for underserved youth in the county, will open an 11,000 square-foot facility at the Booth-Kelly Center, expanding its Spark programming, which provides hands-on vocational learning and training to area youth.

“Spark is a truly innovative program that gives young people opportunities for real-world learning that they might not otherwise get,” said Heidi Larwick, Connected Lane County’s executive director.  “The new location is strategically located in the Booth-Kelly Makers District and is close to organizations that are working towards Springfield’s revitalization and economic growth.”

Inside the new Connected Lane County Sparks center. BOB WILLIAMS/ THE CHRONICLE

The site at 303 S. 5th St. will house an industrial-sized Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine, which is commonly used in manufacturing for machining metal and plastic parts. Having the machine in-house will give the youth the opportunity to learn how to manufacture a myriad of industrial objects on this state-of-the-art piece of equipment. 

Spark at Booth-Kelly will also house a dedicated indoor/outdoor welding area, and a manufacturing technology pathway, all supported by industry partners. 

Its after-school work program, called the Agency, will continue to add programs at the facility. 

The new location will also house a Youth Workforce Center where the organization’s other noted program called Elevate, will provide services and workshops centered around ready-to-work needs.

Similar to the organization’s downtown Eugene location, Spark on 7th, youth will be involved in designing the space, making it their own, and enhancing it into a welcoming environment. 

Construction has already begun on the facility and the organization plans for a grand opening later this spring/summer. BOB WILLIAMS / THE CHRONICLE

In June 2021, Connected Lane County opened the first Spark facility on 7th Avenue in Eugene. The space housed the organization’s Invention Lab: a five-week paid experience for high school students to learn skills in the invention process, build technical skills, and gain experience in human-centered design. The goal of Invention Lab is to empower generations of creators, inventors, and leaders in addressing complex issues. For this summer program, students were tasked with creating devices to monitor air quality and CO2 levels in indoor spaces.

Connected Lane County is a local nonprofit charged with improving outcomes for underserved youth in Lane County. In addition to Spark, the organization runs two other core programs – Elevate, which creates career-connected learning opportunities for youth and Navigate, which offers a variety of case management services to youth facing significant barriers to success.

Construction has already begun on the facility and the organization plans for a grand opening later this spring/summer.



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