Applications for the College of Physicians’ LGBTQ+ STEM program are open

The front of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.
The front of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. (Photo: Courtesy of Broad Street Communications)

LGBTQ+ Philadelphia high school students with an interest in STEM, can now apply to this year’s Out4STEM cohort. Applications are now open for the College of Physicians of Philadelphia’s afterschool and summer programs for Philadelphia high school students interested in the science and healthcare fields.

“Currently at the college, we have five programs, our first being our Out4STEM program, Girls One Diaspora program, Wohlreich Junior Fellows Program, our STEM internship, and last but not least, Hinkson Holloway [Mentorship] Program,” said Sarah Lumbo, director of Youth Academic Programming. “Each program that we have here is geared towards serving our low-income and underserved youth of Philadelphia.”

She added that the programs also cater to communities that are more marginalized worldwide. This includes the Girls One Diaspora Program, which focuses on girls in the African diaspora, and Out4STEM, which focuses on students in the LGBTQ+ community. 

There is also no cost for students to apply or participate in the programs. 

When it started in around 2016, Out4STEM was actually geared toward undergraduate students, who were navigating how to survive college and society at large as a queer person. 

“We later on saw that the only way to combat these issues, the social injustices that we’re seeing with queer youth is by getting them when they’re in high school, where all of these social injustices and issues are starting, as they’re trying to figure out ‘what I want to be in life, being a queer youth,’” Lumbo said. 

Jeanene Johnson, assistant director of Youth Program Operations, added that in the College’s first couple of programs, staff noticed an influx of students from different “micro populations.” So they sat down with LGBTQ+ professionals and discussed how to best serve students.

“These are all adults who were sitting around the table just talking about how most of the services at that time for LGBTQ+ youth were focused on entertainment, arts,” Johnson said. “Things were very dramatic and beautiful, which was fine. And we just realized, ‘Hey, all of you guys are scientists. We don’t have any programs that we’ve noticed that are catered toward youth that are interested in science but are LGBTQ.’”


Cohorts for Out4STEM are small, generally 10 students or less. Lumbo said recruitment can be challenging since not everyone is out in high school for a number of reasons.

“We try to keep one of the groups smaller. We realize that having smaller numbers creates an easier pathway to that peer-to-peer support, but also, [makes it easier to discuss] the intensity of some of the topics that we talk about,” she said. 

She added that some of the students are in situations where either they can’t be out or have faced backlash if they are. 

“These kids, when it’s such a small group, I feel like they can actually form closer friendships,” said James Baker, who currently leads the program. “And then they can also feel closer to me in a sense too, and that they can ask me questions. Instead of like a teacher-student relationship, where I’m the adult, and they’re [the] young person who has all these thoughts and feelings and questions and things; it’s more of like a yes, I’m an adult, but I’m an approachable adult. Because it’s such a small group.”

He continued by saying that he usually has the students sit in a circle so that they can all see and talk to each other easily. 

As of presstime, there are seven spots still available in the program. 


The impact all of the College of Physicians’ programs have on their students shows with how many come back as professionals to work with the students. 

Baker, himself, was a participant in high school and can personally speak to Out4STEM’s impact on students. 

“I feel very connected to the office and program in general, because I really found my place there,” Baker stated.

He explained that the program’s coordinator at the time, seeing his interest in healthcare, recommended that he major in public health in college. Baker took the recommendation and ended up loving it. 

Baker explained, “Having been a part of all of these things, I feel I have a really good idea of what these kids are going through, especially the other like transmasculine students and trans kids like talking about navigating like, which locker room to use or like, difficulties with like bathrooms and stuff. I’ve had personal experience with all of that.”

He added, “And I know that sometimes you can be looked at as a weird kid if you’re into medicine and science, and you’re also queers. You’re othered in many ways. [With] my kids — the ones in the group, currently — sometimes we will just talk about teeth, because there’s one [who] wants to be a dentist. And then we’ll find a random fact about teeth. And we’ll talk about teeth for a while. We can just be weird and open and queer and talk about navigating relationships and school and things like that.”

Even students who participated in other programs have come back to Out4STEM as a professional. Lumbo noted a former student who was in the first cohort of the Junior Fellows Program and is now a doctor of physical therapy. They have done activities with the Out4STEM students and have been a guest speaker. 

“So we have had other queer participants who were not out at the time that they were a participant in our other programs, but are out now and have learned about the Out4STEM program and are like, ‘I have to go back and speak to them, particularly because at that time, if there was a program like this, I would have had so much more support, and probably have would have been out then if there was that. But I probably wouldn’t have gone through the struggles that I went through if I had that kind of program,’” Lumbo explained.

She continued, “They see the importance in having a program that’s particularly geared towards queer youth, and how it’s important to give queer youth that encouragement and show them, ‘Hey, I’m queer, and I’m in this space. You can be too’.”

Baker said he plans to reach out to the other people in his cohort to come out and participate.

Another thing that Lumbo mentioned that makes recruitments a little more difficult is that Out4STEM’s programming is very fluid. This is ultimately a positive since they base the programming on the interests of the cohort. For example, one year, there was a focus on mental health. 

Although the program started out mostly lecture-based, it has become much more hands-on. This gives students more real-world experience with the fields they’re interested in as well as time with LGBTQ+ people in those fields. 

“And now that our safe space is becoming more public, or has become public, we’re seeing more of an influx of people who are queer in professional settings, who [want] to let other queer youth know, ‘Hey, I’m queer, too. And I’m in this setting. So you can be queer in this [setting].’ And I think that’s the power of Out4STEM,” Lumbo said.

Interested applicants can apply for the Out4STEM program at

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