Nonprofit Profile: Schools That Can, creating real-world educational opportunities

In brief

Where: Newark; national nonprofit in New York City.
Serving: STC Newark serves 35 schools, part of the nearly 200 district, charter and independent schools from cities nationwide participating in the STC network.
Key member: Erin Sweeney, executive director.


Schools That Can was started over 15 years ago by volunteers and school leaders who wanted opportunities to share K-12 educational best practices across the district, charter and independent school divide. STC Newark was one of the first regional offices and began with three schools.


Expand high-quality, real-world, hands-on learning that prepares students for post-secondary success, makes lessons relevant and makes school fun. Schools complained that education was becoming more about testing and less about allowing students to engage with material.


  • Career Skills: Work with high schools to prepare students for post-secondary career success;
  • Building Real-World Learning: Work with grades K-8 to develop maker space and hands-on opportunities to introduce students to new careers and skills;
  • Professional Learning Groups: Work with teams of educators throughout each city to solve common challenges by implementing school-specific solutions.


STC Newark is a leader in assisting K-12 district, charter and independent schools with expanding real-world learning opportunities for their students. We directly and indirectly serve thousands of Newark students by working with their school leaders and teachers in a variety of programs to build out a culture of real-world learning. 

STC convened a group of school leaders and community members from across the country to create the Real-World Learning Rubric, a tool that helps schools assess their progress in six dimensions of real world learning, ranging from how creatively they use resources to how well schools build and sustain partnerships with area employers to how inclusive their curriculum is of real world examples and hands-on projects.


STC Newark has gone through a period of growth rooted first in more sustainable and diversified fundraising. This included securing new foundation and corporate grants, developing new fundraising events, increasing our individual giving, securing our first government grant and receiving revenue for some of our more specialized programs.


STC has been especially grateful to the Institute for Ethical Leadership at Rutgers Business School — its Prudential Nonprofit Executive Leaders and Victoria Emerging Leaders Fellowships have helped create communities of supportive nonprofiteers, especially from the Newark area. Other resources include the Dodge Foundation’s Board Leadership Program, New Jersey Council on Grantmakers’ events, resources from the New Jersey Center for Nonprofits, training opportunities with the Support Center and legal advice through the ProBono Partnership.


One of the biggest challenges to nonprofits in New Jersey (and specifically in Newark) is saturation. There is often duplication among nonprofit organizations trying to address the same issues in similar ways. This adds to the daily challenge of fundraising. With the saturation of organizations comes an oversaturation of asks being made constantly to corporations and potential individual donors. The competition for limited dollars will always be a reality in the nonprofit sector, but can be even more challenging with the increase in number of organizations. 

Conversation Starter

Reach Schools That Can at:, or 973-262-3123.