When Maram Abed started school in her native Jordan, learning was one-dimensional: A teacher, a black board, and constant memorization.  After she and her family emigrated to Northern California, Abed’s student experience became 3D.

Abed attended an innovative charter school called Tracy Learning Center, where the mostly low-income K-12 students are groomed for the world of work. Short on finances, but long on creativity, TLC exemplifies the kind of preparation young Americans later thrive on as lifelong students and wage earners. The school's interdisciplinary curriculum is group-based and focuses on problem solving. Students advance upon mastery of the material. Their days are active, and they are fully engaged in their surroundings. Practical coursework, including finance, investment, how to write a business plan, college and career development, are all part of the TLC experience.  Each student must complete 200 hours of internship/apprenticeship during high school, in addition to another 200 hours of community service.

Abed, along with other classmates, graduates, families and faculty, contends the school's approach summons a powerful can-do among the students and propels them toward meaningful jobs with promising pay scales. They engage with mentors in their chosen fields -- in science labs, on factory floors, in architecture practices, engineering firms, with patent lawyers in medical centers, and beyond.  TLC takes advantage of its proximity to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, an energy research facility that, like the hundreds of other national energy, defense and medical labs across the country, is filled with equipment, talent, and programming.  TLC expects its connection with the Lab's scientists to expand with summer internships, teacher training, and student-scientist mentorships.

Among Tracy Learning Center’s interactive curriculum is an ever-evolving career ed, that focuses students on college opportunities and the job market. The class, combined with the internship requirement, excited Abed that her future is within her own grasp.   

For many new Americans, there are often family and cultural impediments to maximizing opportunities. Abed’s parents were recent immigrants, and the family, like others, struggled to merge their heritage with their new lives as Americans.  From a conservative Muslim background historically limiting girls to house chores, and women to marriage and motherhood, Abed wanted far more for her own future. The TLC school community engages the whole family, and draws parents/caregivers into student life, an outreach that helped Abed's father accept Maram’s college and career aspirations. "There are things I want to do,” says Abed, now 18.  After working at a nearby pharmacy in Tracy, she was clear about her goal: "I want to be pharmacist.” He dedication and focus paid off: She gained early acceptance into California State University, Sacremento and won a $2,000 Rotary scholarship.