New high school option for rising 9th-, 10th-graders

McDowell Technical Community College (MTCC) and McDowell County Schools (MCS) have partnered to develop a STEM-focused Early College at the Universal Advanced Manufacturing Building.

The McDowell Academy for Innovation (MAI) STEM Early College will open in the fall. MAI is an inclusive, innovative high school designed to deepen student's understanding of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) through project-based learning with an emphasis on work-based learning projects.

Through MAI, learning will be transformed into an integrated experience of content and relevance. Students have a unique opportunity to engage in high school and college courses that are cooperatively taught class to broaden their understanding of the content and its connection to a future college and/or career. In the fall, MAI plans to open with 50 students in ninth or 10th grade.

Applications will be available on Thursday at the information meeting tonight, Friday from school counselors, or on the website.

To learn more about McDowell Academy for Innovation please visit, or attend the McDowell Early College and McDowell Academy for Innovation Information Night at 6:30 p.m. tonight in the auditorium at East McDowell Middle School.

What is MAI?

• More than a HS Diploma

• Provide dual credit at no cost to students

• Increase college attendance and success rates for all students

• Offer rigorous instruction and accelerated courses

• Provide academic and social support services to help students succeed

• Increase college readiness

• Provide an opportunity to earn a College Associate Degree, certificate or diploma

• Reduce barriers to college access

BOX: Applicants should…

• Reside in McDowell County

• Possess a strong interest in one or more of the STEM fields of study

• Possess a strong work ethic

• Want to go to college to earn a degree, certificate or diploma

• Possess promising academic potential or a will to improve

• Want to attend a small school and is willing to embrace opportunities unique to our program

• Be willing to do without the traditional “large high school experience”

Frequently Asked Questions:

The following Q&A is provided by McDowell County Schools and McDowell Tech.

Q: Do I have to go to the STEM middle school to go to the STEM Early College?

A. STEM Early College (MAI) is open to all students, FCS students have first right to refuse.

Q: How is this different from the McDowell Early College that is already in place?

A. We have a phenomenal Early College in McDowell County, and they receive more applications than they can accept each year. Having a second option allows students to focus on STEM-based interests and allows us to accept more students to an early college model. You also have several options; you can obtain an associate’s degree or one of the 50+ certificates or diplomas offered at McDowell Technical Community College. Visit

Q: What kind of teaching styles can we expect at McDowell Academy for Innovation (MAI)?

A. You will see project-based and work-site based learning at MAI, these best practices allow students to apply the knowledge that they gain and explore careers (and/or college degrees) in a different manner.

Q: Can I play sports?

A. Yes! You can still play sports at MHS.

Q: Is transportation available?

A. Yes! You can still take the bus to the high school and transfer to a bus that will take you to MAI.

Q: Can I take band?

A. Yes! This is a collaborative effort between MHS and MAI to ensure students have access to the band.

Q: What about access to clubs, extracurricular activities, etc?

A. The great thing about starting a new school is that student input is really important! We are looking for students who will help build the foundation for a wonderful school!

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