Aaron McCloud, MBA ’09/MS ’10: Creating Equity in Education
“What we're building is best in class.”
When Aaron McCloud, MBA ’09/MS ’10, recalls his time at the Ross School of Business, he remembers excellence. “I knew I was amongst some of the best in the world. Literally, the leaders and best.”
He says his classmates and professors redefined his standards for achievement, igniting a passion that has followed him into his current work as the CEO and founder of Intervene K-12. His company delivers online tutoring, combining data-driven technology with cutting-edge curricula to support students who are struggling in traditional schools.
By partnering with school districts to supplement other instruction, Intervene K-12 addresses structural inequalities and narrows the achievement gap in underserved school districts. Over 30,000 young scholars have been paired with tutors through a culturally competent lens and offered online tutoring in small groups during the school day. Intervene K-12 then uses the data generated through their efforts to iterate and improve their processes.
“A student’s zip code can be a determining factor in access to opportunities, but the zip code really does not determine a student’s potential or their intelligence,” explained McCloud. “My goal with Intervene K-12 is really to build equity through education.”
A personal mission
McCloud describes his upbringing in South Central Los Angeles as a young Black man in the 1990s as a turbulent time. Persevering through trauma, he graduated from a high school where his potential was overlooked. But an encounter with a Navy recruiter turned McCloud’s academic career in a new direction.
“He saw potential in me. And that was the first time anyone had ever said to me, ‘Hey, you're really smart.’” McCloud’s exceptional performance on the military aptitude test earned him a place working in naval engineering with a focus on nuclear power. To survive and excel in a program with a fail rate of over 50%, McCloud said he had to teach himself how to study. These experiences also showed him the impact of tutoring and being intentional when it came to asking for help.
Reflecting on the validation this recruiter provided him, McCloud hopes to provide similar support at Intervene K-12. By taking a holistic approach to supporting young scholars, the company is able to create the space for students to grow academically and shine a light on them as they increase their performance.
Finding his place at Michigan Ross
“I was excited,” McCloud said of his admission to the University of Michigan. “I knew it was going to be the beginning of a great path for me.” By pursuing both his MBA and an MS in naval architecture and marine engineering, McCloud could continue developing his skills in building both ships and businesses.
Even though I knew I wanted to be in science and build things, I also knew that what I really wanted to do was lead.
After arriving on campus, McCloud remembered attending a meeting of the Black Business Students Association, an organization dedicated to increasing enrollment of Black students at Ross and building community among members.
“Up to that point, I had not been in a room with that many educated Black people in my life,” McCloud said. The outpouring of support and community from the BBSA stuck with McCloud and continues to inform the progress he is making at Intervene K-12.
“The work that we're trying to do is to expand that room,” he said. “We need this talent. We need this diversity of thought.”
Growing his impact
McCloud’s advice to other entrepreneurs is to clarify their goals and the reasons why they are building something new. “Put all your innovation and all your brilliance and all your ingenuity and everything that you have behind that, and you can build something amazing.”
Ross provided me with the essential foundations and business acumen to be in not just the role that I'm in today, but all the roles that I've had leading up to today, and the roles that I will have to take on as I grow this organization.
Intervene K-12 is continuing to expand, growing their footprint in Detroit near McCloud’s alma mater.
“We know there are more students that could greatly benefit from what Intervene K-12 is doing,” McCloud said. The company is also expanding the services it offers, including an app called Dr. Homework that provides parents and students with online tutoring support for homework and skill-building in reading, math, and grammar.
“Our bottom line is scholar growth,” McCloud explained. “How do we set them up for success for the rest of their lives? It’s that mindset that I learned at the University of Michigan.”