News and Features
Franklin Institute’s STEM Scholars Program
Aims to Create Pipeline of Opportunities
Area businesses and professionals can play a key support role
The Greater Philadelphia region is home to a myriad of jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. From its universities and medical centers to its location in the “bio-pharma corridor,” the area presents a variety of opportunities for smart, innovative workers to thrive.
However, many companies are increasingly desperate to find enough qualified employees. For despite its potential, Philadelphia is also a microcosm of the ongoing shortfalls in America’s urban public education programs in science and technology.
Philadelphia’s students are failing in STEM subjects, creating a gaping hole in the ranks of the workforce. Local students routinely struggle with state standardized exams, and by 11th grade 84 percent of juniors in the Philadelphia School District score below proficient in science.
Enter The Franklin Institute’s expanding education initiative: the STEM Scholars program.
With a capacity of 60 students (15 each in Grades 9-12), the program aims to play a modest yet meaningful role in plugging the leaks in the STEM workforce development pipeline. By building inquiry and research skills and promoting career awareness in promising youth from underserved neighborhoods, the STEM Scholars program seeks to make a difference. With the help of dedicated professionals, it is mobilizing the underutilized talent and creativity of young people who may not otherwise see a future for themselves in STEM fields.
Now preparing for its fourth year, STEM Scholars’ 45 students come from 14 different schools. The students meet year-round, attending Saturday workshops during the academic year and Monday-Thursday workshops in the summer. These bright, enthusiastic young people come to the Institute to explore STEM subjects while most other teens are sleeping in. In Grades 9 and 10, students benefit from facilitated hands-on sessions and field trips. Grade 11 is heavily focused on SAT tutoring and college prep, as well as preparing for a research experience the following summer. Grade 12 activities further develop students’ research interests and supports them through the college application process.
By inviting professionals to present their work to students and providing opportunities for exposure to some of the region’s most fascinating research labs and industrial sites, the program aims to increase students’ college matriculation in STEM disciplines, increase the college retention rate and increase workforce entry in STEM industries.
Joseph Grant, a junior, enthuses that “the presenters that were brought to us this spring were very influential to me and my classmates.”
Jahmere Merriweather, a fellow junior, adds, “I’ve met a lot of different people that work in different fields of science … and most of the things I’ve learned from them are sort of surreal.”
STEM Scholars opens up a world of possibilities and professional networks for urban students, many of whom will soon be on their way to becoming the region’s next generation of scientists, doctors, and entrepreneurs.
The program, like The Franklin Institute, has big plans for the future. To achieve its ambitious goals, STEM Scholars will require a continuous investment of resources, especially the time and commitment of local professionals. Program staff is always looking for new researchers and business leaders to bring cutting-edge presentations to students and foster new partnerships with innovative organizations. The passionate people who support and facilitate the program will truly make or break the success of the STEM Scholars program as it moves forward and prepares to welcome its fourth freshman class in 2014.
Businesses or individuals interested in learning more about the program or ways they can help, may contact Danielle Marino, Program Manager, at (215) 448-2371 or firstname.lastname@example.org.