LOS ANGELES — Achieving dreams can be sparked by the motivation to succeed, and an 11-year-old Palms Middle School student is experiencing that firsthand.

Julian Cañete recently met virtually with Dr. Borna, a Sports Medicine Doctor at Kaiser Permanente. The meeting was made possible by a nonprofit called Career Sparks, which connects students with career professionals.

“It makes me feel inspired to become more things, to branch out,” Julian said.

Julian and his mom Liliana do homework every day in their West L.A. home, and while she works hard to help him succeed in school, she also wants him to see how doing well in school translates to a good career.

“It encourages him to as they say, ‘reach for the stars.’ It opens a lot of windows of opportunity. As a single mom, I can only do so much. And I do as much as I possibly can [to] expose him to a lot of things. He’s into math, he’s into science, and we do a lot of virtual stuff. But I feel like seeing somebody,” Liliana Cañete said.

With most kids confined to distance learning, the gap only widens for some of those kids who were already at a disadvantage.

Dr. Christine Montanez, who is a part of the Career Sparks Leadership group made up of community-minded women, is listening in on the virtual meeting. She said live Spark Encounters with career professionals create more equal opportunities for disadvantaged children.

“Creating that connection between a real-world person who looks like them, who maybe is the same gender or maybe comes from the same backgrounds and upbringing, is super important because that all adds to closing the achievement gap for these students and it also adds to closing the opportunity gap for these students,” Montanez said.

And for Julian and Liliana, the journey to becoming a veterinarian starts with these meetings where the message is the same: Julian can do anything he sets his mind to.

“I tell him, you can do all of these things at once," Liliana said. "You don’t have to limit yourself. And his meeting with different people gives him more of a view of, yes, it’s more of an attainable goal that he can have.”