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Greenville Business Magazine

Benjamin Franklin Experience Opens Early Enrollment

Jan 22, 2019 10:34AM ● By Kathleen Maris

Benjamin Franklin Experience (BFE) is a summer program for teens ages 14-18. Over the course of two-weeks, students have experiences in 10 careers led by experts. Fields include STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), trades, arts, journalism, and medicine. One day, students work with an environmental scientist in a mountain stream; the next, they cut a music track for a TV show; the next, they dive into emergency medicine at a simulation center. Three courses are available starting in June through early August.

2019 marks the program’s third-year. Organizations that have created experiences for students include GE, Greenville HealthCare, Brasfield & Gorrie, CarolinaPower, The Greenville News, Furman University, Thrive Upstate, Greenbrier Farms, Beck Digital, and composer-for-television Cale Pellick.

The program has three key objectives: (1) expand teens’ view of the world by introducing them to career opportunities they never knew existed; (2) instill the belief that they can attain their dream careers; and (3) provide ongoing support and resources they need to achieve their career goals over the long term.

The application process has two parts: (1) Students must be nominated by a close adult—a teacher, coach, counselor, family friend, or family member—who must speak to the student’s emotional readiness for the program; and (2) students must complete the online application.

“Students who are great candidates for the program exhibit emotional maturity, inherent curiosity, adaptability, developed coping mechanisms, and kindness,” explains Jess Dennis, chair of the Evaluation Committee. “The key quality we look in an application is passion and perseverance for long-term goals. The goal itself doesn’t matter—students may excel academically, pursue music, sports, or arts, love nature, collect things—what’s important is that they show us they have grit in the area of their lives that is important to them.”

Admissions are need-blind—BFE does not consider an applicant's financial situation when deciding admission. Financial aid is available and is offered on a sliding scale based on parents’ income level.

“If a student is accepted to the program, we do everything in our power to ensure that they can attend the program,” explains Founder and Executive Director Jonathan Shanin. “That goes for everyone, including high, low, and middle income families. Last year, I had a lot of questions from middle income parents, assuming that scholarships were only available to families at or below the poverty line, but that’s not how our scholarships work.”

All highly-motivated teens are encouraged to apply in advance of this year’s March 4th Early Action deadline. Eligible applicants are accepted on a first-come-first served basis, so teens eager to attend the program should apply early. Read the program's FAQ on application details, including eligibility requirements, tuition and financial assistance, and advice on how to impress the Evaluation Committee.

To nominate a student, apply, or learn more about the program, visit