STEM Scholars

The STEM Scholars program serves a select group of Philadelphia-area students in grades 9-12 who are passionate about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects. The program’s mission is to increase promising urban students' matriculation into college and careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields by providing a STEM immersion portal to enhance STEM subject knowledge and problem-solving skills.

In this video, some of our recent graduates explain what it means to be a STEM Scholar and share some of their experiences in the program:

Program Details

Four-year STEM Scholars programming includes:

  • STEM career immersion experiences
  • Informal/formal science experiences
  • Personal profile management
  • College preparation, including SAT/ACT tutoring
  • Career and technical education
  • Entrepreneurial education and experiences
  • Paid research experiences

Program goals:

  • Increase in matriculation to college
  • Increase in matriculation in STEM disciplines
  • Increase in college retention
  • Increase in college graduation from STEM concentrations
  • Increase in matriculation into higher degree programs in STEM
  • Increase in primary or secondary workforce entrance in industry

Student expectations:

  • Commitment of 4 years (must sign letter of intent)
  • Participate in all aspects of program
  • Demonstrate excellent behavior
  • Be on time
  • Complete all assignments

Parent/Guardian expectations:

  • Support student commitment and attendance
  • Be open and responsive to contact from program staff
  • Attend student-lead showcases, when possible
Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How old are the students in the program?
Q: Do I have to be a Philadelphia resident to apply?
Q: What schools do your students attend?
Q: What is the ethnic breakdown of your students?
Q: When does the program meet?
Q: What costs are associated with participating in the program?
Q: How do I apply?
Q: What type of student is admitted?
Q: If accepted as a freshman, do I need to stay in the program all four years?
Q: Do you ever accept non-freshman students?
Q: Do students receive any test prep or help with college applications?
Q: What if I plan to travel or work full-time in the summer?
Q: I'm interested in the STEM Scholars program, but I'm not in high school yet. What can I do?

Q: How old are the students in the program?
A: All students are in high school (grades 9-12).

Q: Do I have to be a Philadelphia resident to apply?
A: The STEM Scholars program accepts students from Philadelphia, as well as surrounding regions; however, the majority of our students are within the School District of Philadelphia.

Q: What schools do your students attend?
A: STEM Scholars currently come from 14 different schools located throughout Philadelphia and Camden, NJ. Our students live in 23 different area codes.

Q: What is the ethnic breakdown of your students?
A: Currently, STEM Scholars is comprised of 72% African-American students, 12% Hispanic/Latino students, 7% Caucasian students, and 9% students who identify as "other."

Q: When does the program meet?
A: STEM Scholars meet weekly during the academic year and four days per week during the five-week summer session. All meetings occur at The Franklin Institute, unless otherwise specified. Academic year meetings take place on weeknights, from 4:30 to 6:30 pm and summer session meetings take place Monday through Thursday, from 9:30 am to 1:00 pm. The academic year start date varies by cohort (from October to February), while the summer session begins the Monday after the Fourth of July holiday and ends in early August.

Q: What costs are associated with participating in the program?
A: Costs for STEM Scholars and their families are minimal. Students must find their own mode of transportation to and from The Franklin Institute, though costs associated with any field trips (on buses or public transit) are covered by the program. Students should plan to bring their own lunch or come with money to purchase a lunch each day. STEM Scholars are rarely, if ever, asked to pay a portion of the ticket cost for special events. Students will occasionally be provided with food by the program or field trip hosts.

Q: How do I apply?
A: Interested 9th-graders must submit a complete application between the time it is made available here on this webpage—usually late September or early October—and the due date in mid-December. A complete application includes a general electronic form, an essay, a school transcript, and at least two letters of recommendation from teachers or other adults who can speak to your academic and personal qualities.

Q: What type of student is admitted?
A: The ideal STEM Scholars student shows academic skill, a dedication to learning, a passion for one or more STEM areas (e.g. math, biology, computing), and a need for additional resources. Students must have at least a 3.0 GPA, though most students' GPA is higher, and show an interest in and aptitude for their STEM classes. STEM Scholars staff relies heavily on the judgment and recommendations of teachers in selecting members of its freshman cohort.

Q: If accepted as a freshman, do I need to stay in the program all four years?
A: Yes. All new STEM Scholars sign a contract signifying their commitment to the program for four years. The program content builds upon each previous year and evolves as students progress through it, so retention is extremely important.

Q: Do you ever accept non-freshman students?
A: In rare circumstances, older students may be accepted to fill a slot vacated by a student who is no longer part of the program. However, since students commit to STEM Scholars for four years and content builds upon each year, these vacancies are few and far between.

Q: Do students receive any test prep or help with college applications?
A: Yes. While freshmen and sophomores spend time learning about a variety of STEM disciplines, juniors focus mostly on ACT prep, and seniors focus mostly on the college application process. The program contracts with Teach LLC, a local tutoring and test prep company, to provide these resources to students. All juniors take the ACT on the same day in April following approximately 20 weeks of preparation.

Q: What if I plan to travel or work full-time in the summer?
A: Program administrators understand that many families will travel during the summer, but ask that vacations are planned before or after the five-week summer session if at all possible. Students miss out on a great deal if they are gone for even one of these weeks. Exceptions will be granted on a case-by-case basis if travel cannot be avoided. Staff also understands that many students work during the summer. Ideally, work will be scheduled around the program. Exceptions may be made for students pursuing a STEM-related summer internship. Rising seniors are paid for their lab research experience, which is set up by administrators and takes place during a 10-week window between late June and early September. These paid lab internships should take precedence over other jobs.

Q: I'm interested in the STEM Scholars program, but I'm not in high school yet. What can I do?
A: The Franklin Institute has a number of other Youth Programs geared toward elementary and middle school students.

Need and History

Need: According to the most recent international testing, American students rank 17th in the world in science and 25th in math—concerning results as the country aims to remain competitive in the global economy. In Pennsylvania, students consistently score significantly lower on the science section of the state standardized exam than they do on reading, writing, and math sections. Only 61% of all students statewide ranked "proficient" or "advanced" in science in 2012, and testing shows that science knowledge tends to decrease with age. Results from The School District of Philadelphia are especially bleak: of fourth-grade students, 37% tested at a proficient level in 2012, which fell to 18% for eighth graders and to less than 11% for eleventh graders. Across all grade levels, race and ethnicity tend to further impact science learning: while 51% of Philadelphia's white students scored "proficient" or "advanced," only 29% of Hispanic students and 24% of black students achieved the same. According to data collected by the Education Department for the 2010-2011 school year, graduation rates for ninth-grade students who graduated with a standard high school diploma within four years were 88% for Pennsylvania's white students, but fell to 65% for black students and 65% for Hispanic students. STEM Scholars targets underserved students who show interest and promise in STEM subjects in middle school and works to further develop their skills over the next four years (when skills otherwise tend to stagnate or decline drastically, as seen from the noticeable drop in state exam proficiency rates from grades 4 to 11).

History: The STEM Scholars program is under the umbrella of The Franklin Institute. The program is working to "change the DNA of STEM education" by incorporating technology, academic enrichment, exposure to related industries, and informal science learning in an inclusive environment. Its activities are challenging and relevant to the demands of today's world and workforce. Officially launched in March 2011, it reached its carrying capacity of 60 students in spring 2014.

STEM Scholars is managed by Danielle Marino, who has been with the program since fall 2011. It depends heavily on an array of volunteers from universities, corporations, and more who donate their time and energy to immerse students in STEM learning, both at The Franklin Institute and in area labs. During their 2013 summer program, the STEM Scholars participated in 13 field trips and over 50 volunteer lead workshops.


Check out what current STEM Scholars and recent alums have to say about their experience with the program.

"I just want to say that the STEM program have opened my mind to many opportunities that I wouldn't have thought about. It allowed me to explore the field of science which have now shaped me into being a bio major in college." ~ Taianna, Class of 2018

"Being in STEM Scholars has given me the opportunity to learn about things of my interest that I cannot learn in a classroom. It has also boosted my confidence in getting into colleges that I know I will prosper at as well as made me more aware of professionalism and responsibilities. These things are very important and has aided in making me aware of my actions because now I see how small things can weigh into how you carry yourself and how you set your goals." ~ Ashanti, Class of 2019

"STEM Scholars is a wonderful program, filled with so many opportunities and once in a lifetime experiences." ~ Briana, Class of 2018

"STEM was a fun program that allowed me to explore different science fields and branches. It also allowed me to make new friends with similar interests as me. STEM also made the college process less stressful for me and others as well." ~ Destiny, Class of 2018


Please note that our program is 100% donor-funded. If you would like to make a gift to The Franklin Institute in support of the STEM Scholars program, please

Donate Now


The STEM Scholars program extends a huge THANK YOU to our generous supporters, partners, and friends who make it all possible.

ASTM International
Dr. and Mrs. Allen M. Barnett
The Boeing Company
Burns & McDonnell Engineering Company
Mr. and Mrs. Ian Comisky
Core BTS
Delphi Project Foundation
Dolfinger-McMahon Foundation
EMD Performance Materials Corp.
High Swartz LLP
Home for Orphans of Odd Fellows of Pennsylvania
Mr. and Mrs. Gerald Isom
Jean Nerken Trust B.
Lincoln Financial Group
Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Mayro
Mr. and Mrs. Thomas B. McCabe IV
Mr. and Mrs. Thomas A. McCarthy
Mr. and Mrs. Jason Morganroth
Mrs. John P. Mulroney
National Philanthropic Trust
Mr. and Mrs. William L. Oliver
Patriarch Family Foundation
Justin Pullins
Ms. Judith Quigley Ruse
Sprague Foundation, Inc.
The Danaher Lynch Family Foundation
The DiBona Family Foundation
The Horner Foundation
UGI Corporation

For more information about STEM Scholars, contact:

Danielle Marino
Director of Youth Programs

STEM Scholars Information Sheet   

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