ASPIRE High School Mentoring Program
ASPIRE (APL’s Student Program to Inspire, Relate & Enrich) offers hands-on, project-driven unpaid internships for high school students. Students selected for this program are placed into one-on-one mentoring relationships with APL staff members to complete STEM-relevant projects. Students must have an interest in the STEM fields and a demonstrated ability to work and learn independently. Students must provide their own transportation and arrange their work hours according to the mentor’s schedule and their own class schedule. The project focuses on something that the mentor is already doing that engages the interests of the student. Their experience culminates in a final presentation. Depending on their school or district, students may receive academic credit toward graduation or a certificate of completion.
Sessions of the ASPIRE Program
- Summer Session
- 6–8 weeks from June to August
- 15–40 hours per week, flexible depending on arrangement with mentor
- Application window: February 1 to March 15
- Academic Year Session
- September to May
- 5–10 hours per week
- Application window: May 1 to June 30
The program requires that students have good analytical skills, mature judgment, the ability to function independently, good written and oral communication skills, and the ability to learn new knowledge and skills. Students must be committed to the program and its time requirements.
The application period for summer 2015 is now closed. The application period for the 2015–2016 academic-year term will begin on May 1, and applications will be due no later than June 30. Please review the information and minimum requirements on this website before applying.
Summer 2015 Application Window: February 1 to March 15
2015–2016 Academic Year Application Window: May 1 to June 30
(Note: mid-academic-year placements will not be accepted.)
ASPIRE Program Timeline
Applicants must meet the following minimum requirements in order to apply for the ASPIRE program:
- Be a U.S. citizen
- Be in 11th or 12th grade in high school (rising juniors and seniors for the summer session)
- Have at least a “B” in all math, computer science, and science courses and an overall 3.00 GPA
- Have reliable transportation to and from APL for the duration of the internship
- The internship must be completed on site at the APL campus
- Hours of operation: Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- No prior convictions
Steps in the Application Process
1. Students complete the online application during the application windows. The online application will require that you upload:
- An essay/personal statement regarding your interest in the STEM field, expectations you have for the internship, and relevant courses or experience that will make you a competitive candidate
- Current resume
- One copy of your transcript(s) (unofficial copy is fine)
- Completed and signed copy of the Counselor/Coordinator Acknowledgment Form (waived for Howard County Public School System students taking the non-credit/after-school option)
2. Student obtains two letters of recommendation as part of the application. The recommenders may e-mail the letter to firstname.lastname@example.org. The letters must be received by the application deadline in order to have a complete application packet.
3. Student is contacted to attend interview(s) with potential mentors.
4. Students and schools are notified if they are accepted into the ASPIRE program.
Am I responsible for finding my own mentor at APL?
We strongly discourage reaching out to APL staff directly. We will match students with available mentors. You must have a completed application by the deadline in order to be eligible for the program.
What should I include in my essay?
The essay should be composed of several short paragraphs and should specify the area of study in which the student is interested. This helps us to make the best match possible. Please visit APL’s main website to learn more about the Laboratory’s work and current initiatives. Make sure to answer the following questions in your essay:
- Why are you interested in this field of study? Explain in detail.
- What skills, knowledge, and strengths do you possess that will provide a foundation for your placement?
- Based on your review of our website, what areas are you interested in?
- What experiences do you expect your mentor to provide? What do you expect to do when you are with your mentor?
What is required for the background investigation?
APL is a secure facility and has procedures and controls in place to safeguard information. Although students will not have any access to classified information, they will have to successfully complete a background investigation, which includes a criminal background check and a Social Security check. The student and his/her parents (if student is under 18 years of age) must consent to this background check upon accepting the internship placement.
I was not selected for placement. Why not?
We make every attempt to place students. Lack of a placement opportunity has nothing to do with a student’s qualifications. It has everything to do with departmental capacity, the student’s expressed areas of interest, and the complexity of our sponsored work.
Once You Have Been Accepted
What are my work hours?
During the academic year, the student must work 5–10 hours per week. During the summer session, students work 15–40 hours. Students arrange their work hours according to the mentor’s schedule and their own class schedule during normal business hours: Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Students may not be present at APL on the weekends or after 6:00 p.m. during weekdays.
What should I wear?
Students are expected to be groomed and dressed appropriately for the workplace. The dress code at APL is business or business casual. You want to make a good impression. If your mentor senses that you are having any problems meeting these requirements, he/she will discuss them with you and your teacher/coordinator.
What is the expected behavior?
Students are expected to act professionally. They are expected to be on time, work hard, maintain confidentiality, and ask questions when they have trouble understanding something. Although students are not paid, check out the Department of Labor’s video series, “Skills to Pay the Bills,” for tips on enthusiasm and attitude, teamwork, communication, critical thinking and problem solving, networking, and professionalism.
How will I be evaluated?
Evaluation criteria and frequency will depend on the school’s requirements, but mentors will comprehensively evaluate students at the end of their internship period.
What are the requirements for successful completion of the program?
Students are expected to give a presentation on what they worked on during their internship and submit a paragraph/abstract about what they worked on to the ASPIRE Coordinator. Mentors will be responsible for finding an appropriate audience for the student to present his/her final presentation. Please note that if you are enrolled in a class for this internship, you may have additional course requirements in addition to the presentation and abstract.
What is confidential disclosure and non-use, and how does it impact my work here at APL?
The Laboratory has developed certain technical, business, personnel, and other information and materials that are considered to be proprietary to APL. The student will on occasion need to receive a disclosure of proprietary information in order to perform the duties associated with the mentoring assignment.
How do I get to APL?
Students must provide their own transportation to and from APL. For maps and directions, please visit http://www.jhuapl.edu/aboutapl/visitor/directions.asp.
Where can I park?
After their first visit to APL, students cannot park in visitor parking, but must enter the Laboratory using designated visitor entrances:
- Montpelier Road: Montpelier Research Park (APL offices) (0.4 miles from Route 29)
- Pond Road: Credit Union, Kossiakoff Center, and East Campus (0.6 miles from Route 29)
- APL Drive: Main Laboratory Entrance (0.8 miles from Route 29)
- Building 26 (Collaborative Analysis Center Laurel): Right turn onto Sanner Road, then second right entrance
- Building 200 (11101 Johns Hopkins Road): Left turn off of Johns Hopkins Road, immediately after Pond Road on the right
Are there security issues that I need to be aware of when entering the Laboratory?
APL is a secure facility, operating under Department of Defense regulations for restricted entry. To obtain approval for entry, a background investigation must be conducted on all accepted students, and all students must present a valid picture ID every time they enter APL.
What electronic equipment can I bring into the Laboratory? Are certain items prohibited?
Privately owned, portable cell phones that do not contain a camera are permitted at APL and may be used in open areas of the Laboratory without restriction. Camera phones are also authorized for entry; however, taking photographs or videos is strictly prohibited.
Do NOT bring the following items to the Laboratory:
- Recording equipment (audio, video, optical, or data)
- Electronic equipment with a data exchange port capable of being connected to automated information system equipment
- Personal computers and associated media
What hours can I get into the Laboratory?
Activities are completed under the supervision of staff during normal work hours. Students may not be present at the Laboratory on the weekends or after 6:00 p.m. during weekdays.
How do I get around?
APL operates shuttle buses from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. if you need to get around campus.
What if my teacher wants to visit my worksite?
All visits must be coordinated through your mentor. As a courtesy, please notify the ASPIRE Coordinator as well.
For more information about ASPIRE, please contact the APL STEM Program Management Office.
Phone: 240-228-STEM (Washington, DC, area) or 443-778-STEM (Baltimore area)