Stories From SparkPath Alumni

At SparkPath (formerly Success Beyond the Classroom) events and in our communities, we’ve run into numerous people who have told us that they participated in our field trip programs or academic competitions. Below, find their stories, and learn about the impact that our programs can have later in life!


“From a young age, I always enjoyed reading and writing and tried to find activities and programs in those areas. I attended the Young Authors Conference as a middle school student after learning about the event at my school. Before that, the primary job suggested to a reading and writer lover like myself was a teacher. YAC opened my eyes to all of the other possible jobs where you can use English skills! The sessions I attended allowed me to gain first-hand knowledge about creative writing, editing, and more. That experience empowered me to explore what the path to a career in editing would look like. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature, I was hired at SmartBrief, a media company specializing in curated business news, where I am now a Food & Beverage Editor!”

“I remember being selected to attend the Young Authors Conference as a young teenager. It had a big impact on my validity as an avid writer and reader. I’ll never forget meeting one of my favorite authors and hearing from her as a panel speaker. Her willingness to sign my book can be compared to the likes of getting a signature from a celebrity…especially to a teenager who was aspiring to be an author. It is one of my most prevalent school memories and when my own teenage daughter was recently selected to attend, I jumped at the chance to chaperone! In 2022, I started my next YAC journey as a presenter!”

Callie Trautmiller author photo
Callie Trautmiller


Knowledge Bowl was my happy place in high school. It was a place to nerd out, laugh together, argue about semantics, cheer each other on, and learn the most pointless, random information you can imagine. It wasn’t about winning for me. What I valued was the fun I had at every practice, every competition.”

“I wasn’t having much luck with job applications after college, so I decided to do some volunteering. I came across the Young Authors Conference on a volunteer website and remembered that I attended this same kind of conference in NW Minnesota. After volunteering for three days in May, I told the team to let me know if they ever had a job opening. Come fall, I learned that they also coordinated Knowledge Bowl, which I participated in during high school, so I got to see the other side of KB through volunteering. The team told me when they were hiring and I’ve LOVED every second of these last 4 years!”

Madi Staff pic
Madi Ericksen – SparkPath Team Member!

Future City is what got me into the private high school I graduated from. When I told the admissions office about my participation in FCC they made the decision to accept me into the school. The skills I had put to use the most that I learned from FCC were how to complete a large/long-term project. For example, when I had taken part in the History Day competition as an 11th grader, I had a better idea of how to tackle a larger project. I had done a performance for my History Day project similar to what I had done in Future City.”

Eva – Former FCC Student Participant

“Volunteering as a mentor for a middle school participating in Future City stretched me. Although designing infrastructure and utilities wasn’t my area of expertise, I was learning from the students as they shared their ideas and researched innovations currently applied in our world. I’m confident that this competition began their experience of improving our world’s energy usage and climate mitigation.”

Hannah – FCC Volunteer Engineer Mentor

“I volunteered at the Young Authors Conference in 2019. It was a great experience for me – seeing the kids get so excited about writing was priceless! I attended the camp as a 6th grader, and it is an experience I still treasure.”

Carly – Wells Fargo Volunteer

Future City has had an indirect impact on the classes I have chosen to take and my current major. Something I am very interested in is how issues impacting individual people can be created or resolved at a systemic, societal level. Future City helped me discover my interest in this topic, as I learned a lot about how the structure of a city can impact the quality of life for different people and groups. This interest is part of what drew me to the topic of public health, my current major.”

Hannah – Former FCC Student Participant

“I want to thank you very much for supporting young authors! Many years ago, my son was so inspired by his experience at the Young Authors Conference. He is now an English professor.”

Ann – Banaadir Academy Teacher

Future City really did ignite my passion and college is just 8th grade me’s dreams brought to life! I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you and Future City.

Shirley – Former FCC Student Participant

© 2023 SparkPath, Inc.

SparkPath is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that presents its programs in collaboration with BrightWorks, a Minnesota Service Cooperative. BrightWorks member districts/schools save 30-50% on SparkPath registration fees. For more information, visit

Send Me SparkPath Updates!

Subscribe to our email list to get notified of volunteer opportunities and program updates.