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.

The STEM Scholars program recently graduated its second class of students. 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
    • 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
  • Apply

    The Mission of the STEM Scholars Program is to provide science, technology, engineering and math immersion for promising urban students in order to enhance their STEM subject knowledge, as well as support their matriculation into college and careers in STEM fields.

    The applications are closed for this year, but please check back next year.

  • 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 3.5 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 will reach 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, under the leadership of the Senior Vice President of Science, Dr. Frederic Bertley. 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.

  • Testimonials

    Check out what current STEM Scholars have to say about their experience in the program.

    "I've met a lot of different people that work in different fields of science, and they have all shared their discoveries with us. The new technologies and ideas are amazing; most of the things I've learned from [presenters] are sort of surreal." ~ Jahmere, Junior

    "Knowing that people like Dr. Bertley want you to succeed is very motivating. STEM Scholars adds to the knowledge I get in [high school] classes by giving me hands-on ways to practice what I learn. The program also has done a wonderful job of supporting us through the college search process. The SAT prep classes were especially helpful, and thanks to them I raised my score by 400 points, which opened a new range of college possibilities for me." ~ Korah, Senior

    "This spring was very fun. We met the first African-American pilot to fly all around the world. We went to the Science Festival. We worked on making a vaccine for Parkinson's Disease. The presenters that were brought to us were very influential to me and my classmates." ~ Joseph, Junior

    "The STEM Scholars program is very exciting and interesting. There is so much to learn and do." ~ Akalia, Freshman

    "I would recommend the internship [program] because it is a very revealing internship, everyone there was helpful and understood that my goal was to learn something new, do things I've never done. And I got just that." ~ Jalisa, Senior, regarding her internship at Fox Chase Cancer Center

    "We are pleased to inform you that our daughter has enjoyed the STEM program so far! Thank you so much for what you and your staff have done to training our future scientists, engineers, technologists and mathematicians. We look forward to next round of the program. Keep up the good work for our children!" ~ Parents of a STEM Scholars Sophomore

  • In the News

  • Donate

    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

  • Sponsors

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

    Our program is made possible by the generous support of our funders:

    • Anonymous
    • Dr. and Mrs. Allen M. Barnett
    • Beneficial Bank
    • Dolfinger-McMahon Foundation
    • Goldblum Family
    • The Hamilton Family Foundation
    • Melanie S. Katzmann
    • Mr. and Mrs. Thomas B. McCabe, IV
    • MOSI Foundation
    • Patriarch Family Foundation
    • Ed Satell and the Satell Family Foundation
    • Michael and Bridget Subak
    • UJALA Foundation
    • Zeldin Family Foundation