By Elisabeth Costanzo Stewart

The future of SUNY Broome is certainly bright thanks to the “SPARK” of well over 1,600 regional eighth graders. Campus was buzzing on January 18th as students from across the Southern Tier arrived for a day of immersive academic and career exploration. Through a collaborative effort, SUNY Broome partnered with the Greater Binghamton Education Outreach Program (GBEOP), Broome-Tioga BOCES, Broome-Tioga Workforce, and The Agency to tackle the region’s growing workforce concerns about attracting and retaining local talent. 

“The goal of SPARK is simple. Engage with students at a pivotal moment in their educational career by showcasing the abundance of academic and career opportunities that are available in their backyard. Hands-on career exploration is critical. Our goal is to create excitement! All of the studies show that eighth grade is the ideal time to expose students to these opportunities as they prepare for high school course selection,” said Matt Sheehan, Director for the Center for Career and Technical Excellence, Broome-Tioga BOCES.

NYSEG presented a live-line demonstration for each group of eighth grade students in attendance. Photo Credit: Sara Forbes

Throughout the day, students learned how to power electricity to their homes from a live line demo from NYSEG, developed mini balloon rockets with BAE, and competed to build the best bridge with LaBella Construction. They combatted cyber fraud with M&T Bank, explored global supply and logistics via boats and planes with the Raymond Corporation, and simulated patient care with Lourdes. 

Faculty from Health Studies: A.A.S. hosted a cardiopulmonary resuscitation workshop, while faculty from the Criminal Justice & Emergency Services Department developed a mock crime scene for students to investigate. Heavenly scents of bananas foster wafted from the Culinary Arts: A.O.S. demonstration, while the Business Information Technology Department helped students explore the power of social media. 

Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Penny Kelly, beamed as she visited each academic building on campus. “We are delighted to help expose these bright, young students to the worlds of business and finance, civil service, healthcare, engineering, education, and more.”


Fast Facts about SPARK

  • Over 1,600 eighth grade students from 18 regional districts attended the event. 
  • Students participated in over 120 hands-on activities. 
  • Over 40 SUNY Broome faculty members developed and presented career exploration activities.
  • Over 100 SUNY Broome faculty, staff, and students volunteered to coordinate sessions, serve as tour guides, and manage logistics. 
  • Over 45 of the region’s top employers partnered with SUNY Broome to facilitate activities. 
  • Industry sponsors: Lourdes Ascension, IBM, LaBella, and The Raymond Corporation.

In addition to showcasing experiential learning activities, SUNY Broome faculty and industry partners used their sessions to discuss core information of their respective fields, the education level needed for each professional role, and the corresponding average salaries. They also presented real-world examples of in-demand occupations that are available in our area. 

Over 40 members of SUNY Broome’s faculty and over 45 industries from the region partnered to facilitate over 120 hands-on activities for the SPARK students. Photo Credit: Sara Forbes

Participating employers and agencies included: Aflac, Ametek, BAE Systems, Bella Vita LLC, Bingham Buck, CAE, Collins Aerospace, Corrections and Community Supervision, the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, District Council 4, Painters, Bridge Painters, Drywall Tapers and Glaziers Union, DoubleTree by Hilton, FourSquareTRE, Good Shepherd Communities, Helio Health, iM3NY, Johnson Outdoors, LaBella, Lourdes Ascension, Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, M&T Bank, Mirabito, NBT Bank, Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters, NYSEG, The Raymond Corporation, Rural Health Network, Siemens, Susquehanna Home Health Care, Tioga Downs, Visions Federal Credit Union, Bing Film Office. 

For SUNY Broome’s President, Dr. Kevin E. Drumm, SPARK is one of the highlights of his year. 

“For many students in attendance, this will be the first time that they visit a college campus. As the “Community’s College,” it is our great pleasure to welcome each and every eighth grader and to make their experience on our campus a positive and memorable one. Our hope is that their time at SUNY Broome via SPARK will be remembered in a few short years… first as Fast Forward students through our partnerships with the region’s high schools, and then when they are high school seniors and are looking to continue their education at a higher level,” shared. Dr. Drumm. 

To learn more about SPARK or other opportunities for middle and high school students to engage with SUNY Broome, contact Brittney Richardson, Staff Associate for Fast Forward Program/Early College & Orientation at

SPARK 2023 Event

View photos from SPARK 2023!