News Release

Penn Medicine invests in future nurses with ASPIRE program at the hospital of the University of Pennsylvania

The new Penn Medicine program offers education for and employment opportunities to high school students interested in nursing careers

Business Announcement

University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

PHILADELPHIA – Penn Medicine has partnered with the Howley Foundation and La Salle University to launch the ASPIRE Program at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP), marking an important investment in the future of nursing. The high school and college program will support local high school students in Philadelphia with a goal of increasing diversity in health care and offering opportunities for economic mobility. The program is supported by a commitment from the Howley Foundation of up to $7.5 million.


Each year, up to 25 outstanding high-school juniors will be selected to be ASPIRE scholars and participate in an enrichment program, lasting for the reminder of their high-school careers. The enrichment program offers mentorship and exposure to health care, the role of nurses, patient safety, and more through a series of interactive and hands-on sessions at the hospital. The first cohort of high-school students will begin with juniors in early 2023.


Upon graduation and fulfillment of requirements, students then have the opportunity to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) at La Salle University with financial support from federal grants, a school scholarship, and a scholarship from the ASPIRE Program itself—which is funded by the Howley Foundation and Penn Medicine. During that time, they will have the opportunity to apply for paid positions at HUP where they can practice their skills and gain more relevant experience.


“ASPIRE firmly aligns with Penn Medicine’s and HUP’s goals to offer pipeline opportunities for members of our community to continue cultivating an inclusive workforce and providing outstanding patient care,” said Colleen Mattioni, DNP, MBA, the chief nurse executive at HUP. “The ASPIRE Program will welcome a diverse pool of young people into an environment of research, innovation, and evidenced based practice, and high quality clinical care. Of course, we will benefit from participants’ enthusiasm, curiosity, and passion.”


The first portion of the program consists of both lecture-type lessons and hands-on learning in the hospital for the high school students. Instructors are HUP nurses and hospital staff. While the students will not participate in clinical work with hospital patients, they will have opportunities to observe and assist nurses and other clinicians. At the end of this part of ASPIRE, scholars will also have a better understanding of the life of a nurse and the skills and approach required to excel at the job.


“Those who begin nursing school may not have much experience with the field unless they’ve volunteered somewhere or perhaps they have family members who are nurses,” said Beth A. Smith, MSN, the corporate director of Nursing Professional Development at HUP. “Not only will this program attract a more diverse generation of future nurses, but will also provide a unique opportunity to see the impact nurses make while providing them with skills and giving them a strong head start in a nursing career.”


During their college years, the ASPIRE Scholars will benefit from ongoing support and guidance through advisors who will offer guidance and support on academic and other matters effecting their education. They will also have regular check-ins with their peers and instructors from the program.


“We are excited to see the ASPIRE Program grow over time and look forward to creating an environment where ASPIRE scholars can thrive academically and professionally,” said Smith.


The ASPIRE Program at HUP builds upon the model established by the Howley Foundation for the Cleveland Clinic in 2017.


“The central focus of The Howley Foundation is supporting quality educational opportunities, and the many wonderful institutions of learning in the Philadelphia region have served generations of our own family well,” said Nick Howley, chair and founder of the Foundation. “We believe these programs are the keys to creating meaningful social and economic mobility, and we are thrilled to work with Penn Medicine and La Salle whose strengths align so closely with our mission. We look forward to  seeing the ASPIRE model in Philadelphia and providing the region’s students an educational continuum that spans exposure to the nursing profession, training and mentorship, and very real opportunities for employment.”



Penn Medicine is one of the world’s leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $9.9 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top medical schools in the United States for more than 20 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $546 million awarded in the 2021 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System’s patient care facilities include: the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center—which are recognized as one of the nation’s top “Honor Roll” hospitals by U.S. News & World Report—Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Medicine Princeton Health; and Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation’s first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional facilities and enterprises include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, Penn Medicine at Home, Lancaster Behavioral Health Hospital, and Princeton House Behavioral Health, among others.

Penn Medicine is powered by a talented and dedicated workforce of more than 52,000 people. The organization also has alliances with top community health systems across both Southeastern Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey, creating more options for patients no matter where they live.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2021, Penn Medicine provided more than $619 million to benefit our community.

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