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MC2STEM wins innovation award

MC²STEM High School received one of three Excellence and Innovation in Secondary Schools awards announced Wednesday by the Washington, D.C.-based Alliance for Excellent Education.

The school also was featured Wednesday in a live streaming of the Alliance’s Digital Learning Day Live! event, a celebration of technology and the role it can play in improving education for all students, particularly those in communities where access to technology and STEM-related fields is a challenge.

The Alliance for Excellent Education is a policy and advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring that all students graduate from high school ready for success in college, work and citizenship.

MC²STEM was selected for the award from among more than five dozen schools and districts. Also honored were the Warsaw Community Schools in Indiana and the Santa Ana Unified School District in California.

“After a national search for schools and school districts that are making a difference for students in socioeconomically disadvantaged and traditionally underserved communities, MC²STEM rose to the top, not just for its effective use of technology, but also because of its success preparing students of color for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields,” said Alliance President Bob Wise, a former governor of West Virginia.

MC²STEM, an open-enrollment school, typically graduates more than 90 percent of its students in four years. The school’s most recent on-time graduation rate is 93.4 percent, according to a recently released state report card.

The school, which opened in 2008, is embedded at three non-traditional sites: ninth-graders attend classes at the Great Lakes Science Center, 10th-graders go to GE Lighting’s Nela Park Campus and 11th- and 12th-graders are in leased space at Cleveland State University. Students also benefit from mentoring, job shadowing and internships.

Facilities include the first MIT Fab Lab to be located in a public school. Students work exclusively on technology-based projects and advance when they demonstrate mastery of content and standards.

“We’re just meeting them where they are and moving them where they need to be,” Head of School Feowyn MacKinnon said during the Digital Learning Day Live! segment.

MacKinnon appeared with Amanda Smith, community programs coordinator for GE, CSU Associate Professor Debbie Jackson and MC²STEM senior Arianna West.

Jackson spends half her time assisting MC²STEM at Cleveland State, helping students connect to university resources and exposing them to the campus culture. She sometimes calls on CSU faculty to work with the teenagers.

“Everyone I have asked so far has said yes,” Jackson said after the live-streaming event. “Everybody on campus has been really open.”

GE Lighting pairs each student with an employee “buddy” who has lunch with the 10th-grader twice a month and provides advice on careers and other subjects. Students also design an LED light fixture during a sophomore-year capstone project and have a chance to work in paid internships at GE after they move on to upper grades.

West said she valued real-world experiences like the internship she is serving in the National Youth Sports Program at Case Western Reserve University. The senior, who is fascinated with “figuring things out and how they’re made,” plans to study mechanical engineering at North Carolina A&T State University.