George Lucas Educational Foundation

Schools That Work | Practice

Mc2 Stem High School

Grades 9-12 | Cleveland , OH

Preparing Students for Career Success

Integrated project-based learning and real-world internship experiences build the crucial link between academic achievement and future economic success.

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Real-World Internships Lead to College and Career Readiness (Transcript)

Lora: In Cleveland's metropolitan school district, four out of ten high school students don't graduate.

But there's one school where ninety-five percent graduate and eighty-four percent of those go to college.

Lilly: We get mentors and real world experience through volunteering and internships.

Y'von: And when we graduate, we're prepared to succeed in college, in our careers and in life.

Lora: It's called M C squared STEM High School. Take a look at what they do for their students. It might change what you do for yours.

Gary: I think when we look at a program like STEM School, they've laid out a very good program. The hands-on projects, the industrial collaboration, the university collaboration, is a wonderful environment in which the kids can excel. Each kid has to have their fuse lit for that rocket to take off. So you can get them out on the launching pad, but if you don't light the fuse, they're not gonna go.

Tim and I started out mentoring about a year and a half, almost two years ago, when he was entering sophomore. He has become a tremendously different person. He's now a very confident young man. This is really remarkable. We brought kids in from the neighborhood, basically-- they're not handpicked from premium high schools in the area-- and gave them a rich experience in working with role models.

Tim: What's rewarding about working with professionals here on GE campus is getting to know how their life is. It makes me think at least that, you know, hey, if I go into this career, that's gonna be me, you know. That's gonna be me working really hard. That's gonna be me using all these math that my math teacher's me. That's gonna be me using all the science that my science teacher's teaching me.

Gary: This real world experience that they get really grounds them, so school is no longer for them a theoretical hypothesis for what life might be like.

Teacher: We're gonna be working with multi-meters. Okay, so your training is actually on equipment today.

Gary: So it's very reality based.

Teacher: Okay, what does that K mean, by the way?




Tim: Thousand means K.

Teacher: Okay, so that's two thousand--

Tim: So, since we're at two thousand K ohms...

They're teaching us from experience and when the professionals come in, it's like, wow, I need to pay attention.

Mastery based grading is different from the ABC scale. We get graded on M which is mastery. Reaching mastery and incomplete.

Catherine: It's a negative slope and it's less than or equal to--

Assessment in mastery in math is done two ways. One, through the testing of the mastery of the paper pencil skills, but then any project we do has a rubric. So the students know exactly what they need to do to perform to reach mastery.

Before we did the quadratic formula, what did we do?

The kids have to show that they've learned the content, and I feel really comfortable about that.

Lilly: Every summer in our three week break, I've gotten the chance to do an internship.

When I came to STEM, I wanted to be an astronomer, so I got my NASA internship, and I build hydrogen sensors for the International Space Station, but I found out I don’t want to be an astronomer. My second was in the injury prevention center at University Hospitals. I found out, I don't wanna do anything that has to do with hospitals. My third one, which is the one I'm currently in is at American Civil Liberties Union. I think I'm gonna end up doing something with political science that has to do with protection of our rights, 'cause I'm very passionate about that.

Y'von: Engineering is in my family. My father was a building engineer for Cleveland Thermal, so I was always interested, but I needed guidance going into high school. At STEM, everything was based on projects with other people, not just science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It goes beyond that. It goes to character, teamwork. At my internship, my main duty is document control. I started in March and maybe around July, I started to understand the stuff I was folding. I started to understand the stuff I was typing. This internship is more school to me than high school right now.

Student: Science and math, pretty much.

Jeff: Okay.

We should talk about, instead of coming back here for your other classes, maybe going to health careers like Melissa's doing.

Gary: They're not only getting from us an insight into, how do you get through high school to prepare for college? How do you choose in college? But, what does it look like beyond that? What are you really getting ready for? So the message to the kids is, it's not a linear path through school or grad school or med school or law school. It's really that emotional guidance. What are you feeling in here that makes sense to you in life where you think you can contribute? That emotional guidance I think is really key.

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  • Director: Zachary Fink
  • Producer: Mariko Nobori
  • Editor: Daniel Jarvis
  • Associate Producer: Douglas Keely
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  • Sound: Thomas Gorman
  • Senior Manager of Video: Amy Erin Borovoy
  • Executive Producer: David Markus


Not Your Traditional High School

MC2 STEM High School is an unusual year-round public school of about 270 students, located in Cleveland, Ohio. The school emphasizes integrated project-based learning, partnerships with business professionals, and real-world internship experiences to help students understand the crucial link between academic achievement and their future economic success.

Students attend classes at campuses embedded in business and school sites around the city -- the Great Lakes Science Center, General Electric Lighting's Nela Park campus, and various college campuses. At any given time, you may see freshmen and sophomores immersed in workshops with tutors from NASA or in rigorous projects and mentorship programs with engineers from GE Lighting, or juniors and seniors stepping up to demanding internships at a variety of local businesses.

While STEM is the school's emphasis, teachers cover all subjects required by Ohio's state standards through integrated, transdisciplinary project-based learning.

How It's Done

Tutoring and Mentorship Brings Authentic Learning

MC2 STEM High School receives students from all over the district by lottery; it is not a school for the elite. At the beginning of the school year, the performance expectations are made clear to every student. The success of the school is founded upon the following three principles:

Transdisciplinary Project-Based Learning

Transdisciplinary project-based learning means integrating the content of academic subjects across school and non-school settings. Each 10 week project called a “Capstone” is designed thematically to meet the Ohio state standards, make connections to Higher Ed and be relevant to industry needs and includes one to two deliverables for assessment. Clear performance rubrics are provided so students know exactly what is required for mastery.   

Real-World Experiences

The MC2 STEM High School campus embeds real-world experiences by existing on district school sites (Health Careers Center), several college campuses and the Freshman and sophomore campuses are even embedded on business sites around the city. On any given day, students will be immersed in workshops with tutors from NASA, working on rigorous projects and mentorships with engineers from GE Lighting or participating in internships at various local businesses.

Every grade level provides opportunities for students to interact with businesses. In 9th grade, students are at the NASA Glenn Research Center four times a year. 10th grade students attend classes at the General Electric Lighting Campus and are paired with a “GE Buddy”. There is a mandatory sophomore project which GE business leaders assess. Grades 11-12, students can participate in internships at local businesses.

High Expectations With Comprehensive Support

The MC2 STEM High School uses a mastery assessment system for grading instead of letter grades A-F. Every student, 9-10th grade, must achieve 90% on benchmark assessments before receiving an “M” for mastery and credit is given for the course.

Following the “Master your own path” motto, students are supported with tutors, mentors, differentiated instruction, and additional study time with the teachers. Students who are academically ready in grades 9 through 12 can also take college-level classes at the university or community college campuses

Behavioral expectations of professionals and maturity are strictly enforced because students attend classes on business property are surrounded by business professionals every day. At the same time the school has the feeling of family that students can rely on for support.

Comments (5) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Barbara A. Mojica's picture

We need more of these schools. I have had experience with highly specialized competitive academic high schools and community based cooperative learning schools and, in my opinion the smaller schools with lots of teacher, parent and local business involvement were the most successful.

Beth Decker's picture
Beth Decker
Foundations teacher- A course for successful transition into adulthood

Awesome...From my experience as high school teacher of a class I created to help students' begin to find their life focus and future career options, helping them to find and better understand themselves and then connect that to possible jobs, etc. is hugely or perhaps even THE) single most motivating, exciting thing we can offer kids these days. We do almost nothing as a system in any concrete way which is why this stands out as so remarkable.

Tammy Avent's picture
Tammy Avent
Business Ed Teacher 9-12 and Co-Op teacher

I am a Business Ed and Co-Op teacher at a local high school. I am in the process of helping the students create a presentation to the lower levels (11 and 12 graders) on how to find a job, Interviewing skills ect. I was wondering if anyone had any websites or something they would like to share that we can use as a guide to help us through out first PBL? I am completely excited to bring this to our school and would like to help pioneer it for our students. Please email me any information to and

Tammy Avent's picture
Tammy Avent
Business Ed Teacher 9-12 and Co-Op teacher

I am a Business Ed and Co-Op teacher at a local high school. I am in the process of helping the students create a presentation to the lower levels (11 and 12 graders) on how to find a job, Interviewing skills ect. I was wondering if anyone had any websites or something they would like to share that we can use as a guide to help us through out first PBL? I am completely excited to bring this to our school and would like to help pioneer it for our students. Please email me any information to and

Suzie Boss's picture
Suzie Boss
Journalist and PBL advocate

Hi Tammy,
Great idea for a project.
You'll find many great resources to help you get started here at Edutopia (search for PBL videos and blogs). To see a final presentation in action, you might watch Kinetic Conundrum:
It's a middle-school project, but it gives you a look at the whole PBL process, including a public exhibition at the end. Might give you some different ways to think about presentations--doesn't have to be a series of PPTs! Instead, your students might do demo stations where they offer younger students some tips and chance to practice interviewing skills, etc.
Here's a useful rubric on assessing presentations from the Buck Institute for Education:
You'll find many more PBL resources to help you get started at
One more idea: Think about a driving question for your project. It should be open-ended with many "right" possible answers. Kid-friendly language helps, too. Maybe something like, "How can we land our dream job?"
Good luck, be sure to let us know how it goes.

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