Aaron McCloud Was a Student With Bad Grades and Deep Potential. He Created a Company to Help Kids Just Like Him.

| August 24, 2023

Intervene K-12 serves over 30,000 students in more than 20 school districts to provide high-impact tutoring for K-12 students within the school day.

Aaron McCloud Event

Aaron McCloud (center of picture) participating in a recent event in partnership with Sen. Borris Miles’ “Miles Ahead Scholars” program and 100 Black Men of Metropolitan Houston. Photo credit: Randall McHenry

Aaron McCloud walked into the USC admissions office.

“Hey, I want to come here and learn engineering so I can build ships,” said McCloud, who had just spent four years operating nuclear power plants for the U.S. Navy.

But told that he would need to supply transcripts and his SAT scores, McCloud inwardly cringed. His high school GPA was an unimpressive 1.7. 

Nevertheless, he was adamant. “How do I get in here?”

McCloud was directed to Santa Monica College, which he attended, returning to USC every semester with his new report card. He was finally admitted into the USC Viterbi School of Engineering in 2004. 

Today, McCloud, B.S. ME ’07, is the founder and CEO of Intervene K-12, a technology-driven online tutoring company, that serves over 30,000 students in more than 20 school districts from Houston to Detroit, New York, Dallas, Louisiana and Connecticut, and, later this year, schools in California. 

Many of those seeds were first planted as a USC Viterbi undergraduate. McCloud not only aspired to reach for the stars but also vowed to bring those stars down to his neighborhood. Quite literally, in fact. 

After discovering his USC Viterbi professor, Paul Ronney, was once a Payload Specialist Astronaut Alternate for NASA, McCloud sprang into action. He arranged for students from his South Central Los Angeles community to meet Ronney, recognizing that this was a moment for seeds of ambition and aspiration to be sown. Little did he know at the time, it would also be the seeds that created Intervene K-12, which he launched in 2016.  

Paul David Ronney

Professor Paul Ronney in his NASA space suit

“If you go into Professor Ronney’s office,” said McCloud, “he has a picture of himself in an astronaut suit. It was a huge deal, and I would bring young people from my neighborhood to meet him. I wasn’t even tutoring at the time, but what those moments informed was the signature model for Intervene K-12 which is blending together tutoring with career exploration and showing young people what they could be.” 

For McCloud, he didn’t always know what he would be when he grew up. 

“I wasn’t a high performer in high school. My talent wasn’t identified. It was a bit overlooked.” 

Upon graduating high school, Aaron charted a course that would lead him on a journey that began in the Navy, where he was selected for a rigorous academic program at a power plant in Florida. This unique opportunity not only exposed him to the intricacies of the energy field but also influenced him to continue his academic journey after the Navy.

After completing courses at Santa Monica College, McCloud successfully transferred to USC to study mechanical engineering. While at USC, he says he discovered firsthand the importance of education and learned the pathway to most well-paying careers started out with a college degree. 

“USC exposed me to so many opportunities, especially with the people,” he said. “The school’s diversity was a key factor in my time at USC, letting me meet and surround myself with students from all different backgrounds. I remember the professors at USC Viterbi were like no one I had ever met. Dr. Yan Jin was another one of my favorite professors. His background in naval engineering and naval systems made it easy to talk about my future career aspirations since I, too, wanted to become a naval engineer.”

Upon graduating from USC, McCloud continued his education at the University of Michigan, achieving dual master’s degrees, one in business and the other in naval architecture.

With the vision to uplift and empower future generations, it was at USC where McCloud’s journey helping out children in his community began. 

“It started with a parent reaching out to me, asking me to tutor her child in elementary-level math and English,” he said. “Word of the tutoring sessions spread quickly, and more kids joined each session. I eventually started hiring some of my classmates to come out and help me tutor.”

Nearly a decade later, McCloud founded Intervene K-12, an organization with the goal of bridging the gap in educational opportunities for students from underprivileged backgrounds.

Specifically, Intervene K-12 sets out on a mission to empower, educate and engage young minds from all walks of life. Through online tutoring, immersive workshops, mentorship programs and hands-on experiences, the organization strives to provide students with the tools and knowledge needed to pursue careers in engineering and other STEM fields. By nurturing a love for learning, encouraging curiosity, and instilling confidence, Intervene K-12 aims to create a generation of forward-thinking individuals poised to make a positive impact on their communities and beyond.

“Looking at the data, Intervene K-12 has proved to be successful to most, if not all, of our scholars,” said McCloud. “Metrics show an average of around 30% overall growth for scholars, with 80% of students that were previously failing now at a passing level or higher. Not to mention, on average, English and multi-language learners are moving one proficiency level higher.”

“What we do is not just tutoring, but also intervention,” McCloud told BLAC magazine earlier this year  “In a typical school or classroom, there are high performers and mid-range and low performers. Our teachers are already working on supporting the scholars, but the low performers need additional support,” he said. “In the communities we serve, those parents don’t have the funding to pay for additional off-site tutoring. Why do we have so many low performers in our community? I don’t want to blame the teachers because bigger, more systematic issues exist.” 

As for the future of Intervene K-12, McCloud’s ambitious vision entails expanding the service to numerous cities across California. However, he remains steadfast in his commitment to prioritizing his beloved hometown of Los Angeles.

“Los Angeles is a priority for me because it is the community I grew up in,” he said. “I wish I had access to something like this back in my time. It would’ve helped me so much academically and professionally, and growing my confidence.”

Aaron McCloud USC Alumni Event

Aaron (center of picture in gold) at a USC alumni event. Photo Credit: Aaron McCloud

Meanwhile, as Intervene K-12 continues its expansion to major cities across the United States, the company has been prioritizing its latest innovation – Dr. Homework. This product empowers parents to access the same curriculum utilized by Intervene K-12 in schools, enabling them to foster personalized growth for their children.

Despite his busy schedule, McCloud remains actively engaged with the Trojan Family, regularly attending USC sports watch parties and alumni chapter holiday gatherings in Houston.

McCloud is also an advocate for entrepreneurship. As a result, he used his USC connections to partake in an accelerator program sponsored by the USC Rossier School of Education. Through this opportunity, he was able to connect with professors and entrepreneurial-minded students within the school.

Looking back at his time at USC Viterbi, McCloud says he cherishes the invaluable opportunity to forge connections with a myriad of students hailing from diverse backgrounds – so much so that he can only sum it up with one word: “transformational!”

Published on August 24th, 2023

Last updated on August 24th, 2023

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