Aderonke Adedokun Helps Kids Embrace STEM

February 5, 2024

Aderonke Adedokun is a 2023 Outstanding Community Service Award winner for her work with SparkShop, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization that empowers teachers and students to embrace STEM education, inspiring the next generation of engineers.

Aderonke Adedokun, Senior Human Resources Manager, began her journey with SparkShop six years ago as a volunteer and founding associate board member after being drawn to SparkShop's mission of leveling the playfield and creating more equity in STEM professions. 

SparkShop is a unique nonprofit organization that inspires the next generation of engineers, innovators, entrepreneurs and manufacturing geniuses by developing and delivering STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education to elementary school students in Chicago. The organization has partnered with 32 schools and served more than 1,600 students, 84% from low-income backgrounds and 75% who have never participated in STEM education before. 

“The truth is women and Black and Brown communities are underrepresented in the fields of STEM,” Aderonke says. “SparkShop wants to change the ecosystem. We connect bright, passionate young students with the resources and access to knowledge they need.” 

SparkShop is different than other STEM-focused organizations because it focuses on students in fourth and fifth grades — between 9 and 11 years old — a pivotal time when kids start to perceive their academic strengths and learning preferences. 

When a classroom partners with SparkShop, every student receives a specially packaged toolkit of STEM supplies customized for their lesson. Lessons bring applied engineering to life, like how to build an electrical circuit, and students begin to learn how engineers shape our world through biomedical, electrical, mechanical, civil, chemical and environmental engineering fields.  

As an HR professional, Aderonke understands the growing importance STEM professions will play in the jobs economy, especially over the next 10-20 years. Her work in HR is also what inspires her to help students learn and achieve their goals. 

“At the end of the program, whether a student aspires to be an engineer isn’t important,” Aderonke says. “The program allows kids to think like engineers and, most importantly, gain confidence and become problem solvers in all their academic pursuits.” 

Aderonke says it’s been rewarding to see the organization grow from a passion project to an officially registered, nonprofit organization with dedicated, full-time staff members. She now serves as board president and credits her support of SparkShop with helping her increase her own professional development in finance, nonprofit management and leadership. 

At $20 per kit, Cboe’s $5,000 donation will help SparkShop partner with more classrooms and continue providing free programming to elementary schools in Chicago.