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Youth Engagement Through Science (YES!) Program


DESCRIPTION: The Youth Engagement through Science (YES!) internship is a career immersion and science communication program for youth between the ages of 14-19, who are currently enrolled in high school (grades 9-11) in the Washington D.C. region.

The YES! program, which runs from June-November, gives interns practical experience through a hands-on science internship with Smithsonian science staff. By participating in the program, teens will also have access to behind-the-scenes tours and field trips, workshops, college preparatory classes, and the opportunity to create their own science communication video.  The internship includes:

  • Research projects guided by a Smithsonian science mentor in various science disciplines across the National Museum of Natural History.
  • Training modules focused on learning how to effectively engage public audiences and teen peers in science topics.
  • A chance to meet teens who share similar science interests.
  • Field trips and behind-the-scenes tours.
  • College preparation courses from YES! alumni and local college visits.

Since its inception in 2010, the Youth Engagement through Science (YES!) program has connected local youth with Smithsonian collections, experts, and training to inspire them to pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers. This internship program provides youth from communities traditionally underrepresented in science careers with the resources needed to help them to achieve their ultimate goal of attending college. Over six weeks in the summer, students who participate in YES! work side-by-side with Smithsonian researchers and educators behind the scenes and away from the public areas of the Museum. Interns enhance their scientific literacy through workshops and field trips, and are given the opportunity to work in the Museum’s vast research collections — seeing rare objects and specimens including meteorites, mummies, and mammoth skulls!

In mid-August, YES! interns rejoin us for a series of science communication and college preparation workshops that take place over eight Saturdays. Interns gain the science communication skills to translate their summer research into a compelling, personal, and authentic science story for the general public. This science story is filmed, edited, and produced into a finished video product that can be used for college, scholarship, and job applications. Interns also participate in college preparation workshops focused on guiding them through the college application and orientation process. Sessions led by college admission officers, financial planners, and YES! alumni cover everything from surviving senior year to seeking and securing college scholarships. Multiple tours to local colleges are offered to help interns prepare for their pursuit of higher learning.



Youth Engagement through Science (YES!) is a Three-Part Program — Participants must complete all 3 program components.

SUMMER SESSION: 6 weeks, Monday through Friday, June 29 – August 7, 2020, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Component 1: Career Immersion

    • Science InternshipInterns work in pairs on a hands-on project led by a Smithsonian science mentor at the National Museum of Natural History, National Zoological Park, or Smithsonian Gardens. Projects cover a wide range of scientific disciplines and interns experience first-hand what it’s like to conduct research at the Smithsonian. Interns discover what goes on behind-the-scenes at a natural history museum, and learn how their project contributes to the Smithsonian’s overall research goals.
    • Behind-the-Scenes Tours, Field Trips, Guest Speakers and Science WorkshopsAs part of the YES! program, interns experience the vast scope of the Smithsonian Institution through behind-the scenes tours and field trips to some of the Institution’s museums and research centers in the area. In addition, guest speakers from our science community speak with our students about their work and lead interactive, hands-on science workshops.

Component 2: Communicating Science

    • Communicating Science to Public AudiencesInterns work with the Museum’s Education and Outreach staff to learn how science is communicated to the public. Participants engage in interactive workshops covering various skills, including oral and written communication and research presentations. Interns are provided with guidelines and opportunities to communicate as real-world professionals.
    • Community DayOn the last day of the summer program, the interns use their newly acquired science communication skills to present the results of the projects they worked on with their science mentors. This event allows the Smithsonian community and museum visitors to view the students’ projects and learn more about their summer experience.


SATURDAY SESSIONS: 8 weeks, Saturdays only, August 15 – October 3, 2020, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Component 1: College Preparation

    • Practical College PreparationNMNH collaborates with Program Directors, Academic Advisors, and Deans of Undergraduate Studies at colleges and universities in the DC metropolitan area to discuss making the transition from high school to college. Through a college panel, interns learn about applications, scholarships, practices of successful students, choosing a major, and how to best find a place in the campus community. In addition, YES! alumni who are in college or have graduated from college are invited to NMNH to act as mentors for the existing cohort of YES! interns through college preparatory discussions, panels, and electives.
    • College VisitsDuring the Saturday Sessions, interns visit a few college campuses in the Washington, D.C., area to speak with admissions counselors, meet current students, and explore their campuses. Interns are required to attend at least two of the three college visits.

Component 2: Science Communication

    • Science Communication: For six Saturdays, interns engage in our science communication curriculum which teaches them how to translate their summer research into a compelling, personal, and authentic science story for the general public. This science story is filmed, edited, and produced into a finished video product that can be used for college, scholarship, and job applications. DCTV, a local television production company, partners with YES! interns to run development workshops, film and edit, and also broadcast the videos.


REACH 100 INITIATIVE: Interns tasked to reach 100 of their peers, October 4 – November 6, 2020

Between October 4 and November 6, YES! interns participate in a “Reach 100” initiative. Every intern is tasked to reach at least 100 peers through the Reach 100 Initiative. This allows interns to serve as multipliers, increasing the effectiveness of our efforts to become a relevant place for young people to explore their science interests and gain the skills and experience necessary for science careers.

Reach 100 Presentations: Reach 100 presentations can take place at the interns’ schools, after school programs, and/or community centers.

Intern is In: Interns will also have the option to present at “Intern is In” sessions organized by Youth Programs staff, where they will discuss their research with visitors to Q?rius, The Coralyn W. Whitney Science Education Center at the National Museum of Natural History.


Who can apply?

  • Students who are between the ages of 14 and 19.
  • Students currently enrolled in 9th through 11th grade.
  • Students who live in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan region and attend a local high school (public, private, independent, or homeschool co-op) in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan region (DC, MD or VA).
  • Students who are U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents.
  • Students who are in good academic standing.
  • Students who are able to participate in both the summer and fall sessions of the program.
  • Students who are interested in natural history science or cultural studies as a potential career.


To be considered for the YES! Program applicants must submit a completed application. A complete application includes:

  • Application Form
  • Application Survey
  • Required Essays
  • Two Letters of Recommendation

All application components and instructions are included on the YES! Application PDF. Incomplete applications will not be accepted.

TIMETABLE: June – November


AWARD: $2,500 stipend


(202) 633-4588

For more information visit the YES! Website