ASPIRE High School Mentoring Program
ASPIRE (APL’s Student Program to Inspire, Relate & Enrich) offers research-based internships for high school students. Qualified students are recommended by their teachers/schools and placed into one-on-one mentoring relationships with APL staff members to complete research projects. Students must have a demonstrated ability to work and learn independently and are treated essentially like employees. Students must provide their own transportation and arrange their work hours according to the mentor’s schedule and their own class schedule. The research project focuses on something that the mentor is already doing that engages the interests of the student. Students keep journals of their work, which is monitored and evaluated by teachers at their high schools. Their experience culminates in a research paper and presentation. Students receive academic credit toward graduation: 1–2 credits for the successful completion of a required number of hours (5–10 hours per week).
The program is demanding, requiring commitment, analytical skills, mature judgment, the ability to function independently, written and oral communication skills, and the ability to comprehend complex management elements and new knowledge.
To apply, interested high school juniors and seniors should contact their school’s Gifted and Talented, Career Connections, or School-to-Career Transition Program coordinator. Applications are only accepted from schools. Private or independent schools may contact the APL STEM Program Management Office directly at 443-778-STEM (7836) or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 1 for summer placements
May 31 for academic-year placements (fall and spring semesters)
(Note: mid-academic-year placements will not be accepted.)
Steps in the application process:
1. Completed application is sent by applicant’s school to APL for consideration
2. Student is contacted to attend interview(s) with potential mentors
3. School and student are notified of student’s placement as an APL intern
What are the requirements to be accepted into the mentoring program?
Placement opportunities are available to students attending STEM-focused high schools within a 25-mile radius or 30-minute drive of APL. High schools with Gifted and Talented Programs, Career Academies, and STEM-focused programs (such as Project Lead The Way) may submit applications for student placement. Schools must agree to facilitate payment for background investigations for students who are selected to participate. A summer (non-credit) placement opportunity is available for rising juniors and seniors. Priority goes to private, independent, or home-schooled students because they are not usually in a supervised, structured program with release time.
- Completed application (incomplete applications will not be considered). Required information includes school program application, APL application, contract, resume, essay, official transcript, list of courses being pursued during the next academic year, and two recommendations. Submit all components of a student’s application together as a package.
- Only students who are U.S. citizens with no arrest or conviction records will be considered. A background check will be completed for selected participants.
- Students must maintain a grade of B or above in the area of study.
- Students must have two recommendations from professionals who have taught or worked with them in the related area of study that demonstrate task commitment, responsibility, evidence of independence, and the ability to get along with adults. Recommendations from mathematics, science, and technology teachers are preferred.
- Students must commit to their mentorship experience as a priority in the term in which they elect to participate. (NOTE: mid-academic year placements will not be accepted.)
- Students meet with their mentors at the mentor’s place of work. Therefore, students must provide their own transportation to APL, which is located in Laurel, MD.
Am I responsible for finding my own mentor at APL?
We strongly discourage reaching out to APL staff directly. We will match students with mentors once we receive applications that have been approved by schools.
If your school application form requires a list of potential mentors, simply put the following statement on the form:
“The APL STEM Program Management Office will recommend appropriate mentors based on the interests and skills of the student.”
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 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, to include a criminal and Social Security check.
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 nature of our sponsored work (classified, unclassified).
Once You Have Been Accepted
What are my work hours?
During the academic year, the student receives credits toward graduation: 1–2 credits for the successful completion of a required number of hours (5–10 hours per week). Students arrange their work hours according to the mentor’s schedule and their own class schedule during normal work hours (students may not be present at the Laboratory before 6:00 a.m. or after 6:00 p.m. during weekdays, or on weekends).
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 don’t understand 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 students are usually evaluated quarterly, at mid-term, and at the end of each semester.
What are the requirements for my research project and presentation?
The format and presentation of your research will depend on your school’s requirements, but it is expected that the student will provide a copy of the research paper and presentation to the STEM Program Management Office at the conclusion of the placement. Students are highly encouraged to deliver their presentation before an appropriate audience.
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 the Laboratory. 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 (Warfare Analysis Laboratory): Right turn onto Sanner Road, then second right entrance
- Building 23 (Space Integration Test Facility): Right turn onto Sanner Road, then fifth right entrance, followed by a right turn toward Building 23 (0.8 miles from Johns Hopkins Road)
- 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. All visits to the Laboratory must be preapproved via written request and notification by responsible staff members.
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 is prohibited without written permission from the APL Security Office.
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
- Cameras, including electronic equipment containing a camera
- 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 before 6:00 a.m. or after 6:00 p.m. during weekdays, or on weekends).
How do I get around?
APL operates shuttle buses from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Your mentor may request use of an APL-owned or -leased vehicle for offsite meetings. Students may not be transported in APL-owned vehicles without written consent from their parent/guardian and approval from the APL STEM Program Management Office.
What if my teacher wants to visit my worksite?
All visits must be coordinated through the STEM Program Management Office. Teachers may contact the APL STEM Program Management Office directly at 443-778-STEM (7836) or send an e-mail to email@example.com.
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)