Linked Learning Alliance James Irvine Foundation gmmb



GMMB recommended STEM Academy of Hollywood, where the Linked Learning model has taken root. Purple States producers consulted teachers, observed classes, and selected four students whose stories would allow us to explore the distinctive challenges and opportunities of being in a Linked Learning school. They span grade levels and pathways: two in biomedicine and two in engineering; two ninth-graders, a junior and a senior.


STEM Academy students

  • Brandon Cho
  • Zaci Del Moral
  • Amy Espina
  • Ruben Ruiz

STEM Academy Staff

  • Paul Hirsch
  • Lori Hunt
  • Esther Dyson
  • Amy Tsang
  • Melissa Chavez

Laurie Goldman, Friends of Hollywood Central Park


Primarily professional filming, with some self-filmed footage. The director and videographer spent many hours at the school over the course of the spring semester, filming the students in a variety of contexts. Students were also interviewed at home. They were given cameras and encouraged to document their own experience.


The James Irvine Foundation funded the original Linked Learning pilots and continues to support improvements in and evaluation of the initiative. As the State of California takes the concept to scale, the Foundation — with the help of GMMB — is seeking to increase public awareness of the distinctive character and value of the approach.


The James Irvine Foundation commissioned and funded the production through GMMB.

Editorial Control

Within an overall framework suggested by GMMB, Purple States designed and shaped the series. Once a student had been chosen, we documented his or her journey wherever it led. Purple States determined the content of each piece. GMMB viewed rough cuts, and suggested changes.


  • Executive Production by Cynthia Farrar
  • Produced and directed by Ben Lear
  • Filmed by Ben Lear and David Matorin
  • Edited by David Matorin
  • Photography by David Matorin

Episode 1: Ordinary Kids

Introducing Ruben, Amy, and Brandon. Ordinary teenagers at an unusual high school. They aren't just learning math and science. They're also learning how to be engineers and biomedical professionals.

Episode 2: Learning by Doing: the freshmen

Zaci is in the biomedical track. She's failing, and losing heart. What happens when she tries to apply what she's learned to a creative project? Brandon's engineering class is designing a walking bridge for the Hollywood Central Park. His group's practice presentation reveals how hard it is to work as a team.

Episode 3: Internships Broaden Horizons: the upperclassmen

Amy is determined to be the first in her immigrant family to go to college, to make the most of the opportunities her father never had. A paid internship with the designers of Hollywood Central Park fuels her ambition to become an architect. Ruben is invited to speak at the annual Linked Learning Conference about his internship with Kaiser Health. He doesn't feel like a role model. His brother is in prison. His own story could well have turned out differently. Now he's applying to college.

Episode 4: One Student at a Time

Ruben hears from colleges. Brandon's group presents, and Zaci’s team competes in the school's PSA film festival. Attending a Hollywood Park gala, Amy is treated like the professional she aspires to be. The segment -- and the series -- ends with Ruben's graduation.

Linked Learning - The Documentary

The full series is being screened at events across California and distributed online by the Linked Learning Alliance and its partners.

Screening and Panel