A Culture of Giving: GE Lighting’s Partnership with MC2 STEM High School

I love to inspire young people to want careers in STEM, and I enjoy watching them grow and develop throughout the year.

GE Lighting’s Partnership with MC2 STEM High School started in 2007 when the Cleveland Metropolitan School District decided to begin the process of creating a “new and innovative school” platform. When the students moved on campus in February of 2008, MC2 STEM became the first high school embedded on an industrial campus.

MC2 STEM senior DaJahnae Pryor recently blogged about her school experience in “Attending School at a Fortune 500 Company,” but what’s it like for the GE Lighting employees who volunteer at the school?

“I started off as a tutor for mathematics, and since then, I have had the opportunity to help with the FIRST Robotics team, Sophomore Project and I’m currently serving as a lunch buddy,” says Berney Montavon, an engineer in GE Lighting’s Edison Engineering Development Program.

GE engineers, Berney Montavon (left) and Kathleen Smith (right) show students how to use development boards as part of Sophomore Project.
GE engineers, Berney Montavon (left) and Kathleen Smith (right) show students how to use development boards as part of Sophomore Project.

Bringing the “real world” to the classroom

Sophomore Project is a business course developed and taught by GE Lighting employees that teaches students a new product introduction process that’s similar to the steps GE Lighting uses to take a new product to market. Students design and build a product and create business and marketing plans around that product.

Montavon helped design the students’ project this year which has the students developing and programming wirelessly controlled lighting products.

“I enjoy teaching technology the most. There is an embedded revolution going on in our world right now, and it’s exciting that the students are gaining experience with development boards capable of doing a lot more than running lighting systems. I’d like to think that I’m helping to encourage some of the students into a lifetime of embedded programming and hobbyist projects,” says Montavon.

Employees teach the curriculum for Sophomore Project and work with students to complete a deliverable that corresponds with their function, such as designing and building a package with the packaging department or creating a sell sheet with the marketing department. Employees also help assess students on their overall understanding of the concept through various presentations the students do.

Building Lasting Bonds

The GE Buddy Program, which pairs each of the 100 students with an employee mentor, is the most popular program at Nela Park, GE Lighting’s world headquarters and location of MC2 STEM’s tenth-grade site.

Gary Allen shows buddy laser cutter
Student Gary Allen gives his GE buddy, who shares the same name as him, a tour of the school’s Fab Lab, an engineering workshop where the students build projects as part of their learning process.


Principal Engineer, Gary Allen says that what he enjoys most about volunteering is “the one-on-one impact and the enduring friendships with several of the students I’ve tutored or mentored.”

Like many volunteers, he was inspired to serve as a mentor because of personal experiences he had with mentors.

“Having grown up in a steel-mill town, and working summers in the mill, it may well be that without mentors, my perspective on life and career opportunities might have been extremely limited. When I encounter a MC2 STEM student whose perspective on life and opportunities might also be limited, it brings me joy to complete the circle of giving,” says Gary Allen.

Not only are strong bonds formed between students and volunteers, but sometimes they can even carry over from one sibling to the next. Kathleen Smith, who like Montavon is an engineer in the Edison Engineering Development Program, has been a tutor at the school for the past two years. Last year the student she was tutoring requested that Kathleen tutor her little sister throughout the upcoming school year.

“I felt so special! At that point, I knew that I made an impact on Cat, and that she wanted the same experience for her little sister. She is a great student and hard-worker, and I have enjoyed getting to know her sister Diany as well. I felt like I had a positive effect on Cat, so much so that she would trust me as a mentor for her sister,” says Kathleen.

SEE ALSO: Attending School at a Fortune 500 Company

A rewarding experience for all

Over 150 GE Lighting employees volunteer with MC2 STEM students for more than 2,450 hours annually. So why do they do it?

“I love to inspire young people to want careers in STEM, and I enjoy watching them grow and develop throughout the year,” says Kathleen. “As I see them weekly for tutoring, it is amazing how much they learn in just a short time. It is rewarding to know that I am making a difference in the lives of young people, and that I serve as a role model. I encourage them to dream big, and work hard to get there!” she concludes.

MC2 STEM High School is a transdisciplinary, project-based, multi-campus school with sites at the Great Lakes Science Center, GE Lighting’s Nela Park and Cleveland State University. Among the schools many accolades are the 2012 National Excellence in Urban Education Award, a designation as a “School of Promise and a High Performing School of Honor” by the Ohio Department of Education in 2014 and three separate mentions by the White House.


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