How could $5,000 jumpstart career exploration at your school?

The middle grades are a pivotal time in students’ development, as they begin to form their identity and envision the future. Career exploration is a cornerstone of this process and is associated with both positive educational and employment outcomes, keeps students engaged in school, and helps them develop a better sense of self. That’s why ASA and AMLE have teamed up to create Career Exploration in the Middle Grades: A Playbook for Educators that offers a roadmap that ANY school can use to create an impactful program for their students.


Take the Playbook Challenge and empower your students to discover their strengths and passions by developing your own career exploration program. Any educator(s), including teachers, district/school leadership, counselors, innovation coordinators, etc. can submit a program proposal.

The top three proposals will be awarded $5,000 to get their program started!

You can start big or small, as long as you leverage the best practices outlined in the Playbook. The Playbook Challenge offers an exciting opportunity for schools to:

  1. Integrate experiential career exploration into existing courses or programs, or to adopt proven curricula to establish career exploration initiatives.
  2. Significantly expand the number of students who participate in meaningful career exploration.
  3. Support middle to high school transitions and build family and community engagement.

See the Playbook in action to get ideas and inspiration for the Challenge

Sutton Middle School
Sutton, MA

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools
Charlotte, NC

Uxbridge High School
Uxbridge, MA

Creating an Impactful Career Exploration Program: Where to Start?
View the working session recording featuring helpful tips from AMLE and ASA staff.

How to Submit Your Proposal


Step 1: Grab your Copy of the Playbook

Proposals should reflect the best practices outlined in Career Exploration in the Middle Grades: A Playbook for Educators. Become familiar with the Playbook by downloading the digital version online or ordering a paper copy.

Depending on your role, you will use the District/School Leader, Counselor, or Teacher Action Guide to plan your proposal. These can be found on pages 58-64 of the Playbook or on the Playbook Resource Center.

Need some inspiration? Here are a few ways to start brainstorming your proposal:

  • Check out case studies from schools that have effectively implemented career exploration programs,
  • Watch our recorded webinar with Julie DiPilato, a seventh grade science teacher who started a career exploration program at her school
  • Ask to be connected with a mentor school by emailing with Playbook Challenge in the subject line.

Step 2: Draft your Proposal

Proposals can be submitted at Be sure to download the application checklist so you can be sure to have all of the required information when you go to submit your proposal and review the contest rules.

  • Vision and Purpose
  • Program Description
  • Implementation
  • Outcomes
  • Sustainability and Scalability
  • Program Budget


A selection committee comprised of AMLE members and ASA representatives will review submissions and evaluate each against the Playbook Challenge Scoring Rubric.


Playbook Challenge Launch: November 7, 2021 during #AMLE21: The 48th Annual Conference for Middle Level Education

Proposal Submissions Open: November 8, 2021

Submissions Deadline: January 31, 2022 by 11:59 pm ET

Submission Review Period: February 1 – 11, 2022

All entrants will be notified as to the outcome of their submission by February 17, 2022. Winners will be announced on February 18, 2022.

The Playbook Challenge Contest FAQs

  1. What is the Playbook Challenge?
    Answer – The Playbook Challenge is a funding contest aimed at empowering middle grades educators to develop career exploration programming at their schools. The Playbook Challenge will award funding to three proposals, each in the amount of $5,000.
  2. Is my idea the type of proposal AMLE is looking for? Can I receive feedback in advance of the deadline?
    Answer – No idea is too big or too small as long as it is aligned with the best practices outlined in Career Exploration in the Middle Grades: A Playbook for Educators. The Career Exploration Resource Center is a great place to gain inspiration by exploring case studies from other schools and collecting templates and resources to aid in your proposal drafting. You can receive informal feedback in advance of the deadline by emailing with the subject line “Playbook Challenge Request for Feedback.” Note that requesting feedback does not inherently increase your chances of being selected as a Playbook Challenge Finalist.
  3. Where can I obtain a copy of Career Exploration in the Middle Grades: A Playbook for Educators?
    Answer – You can Become familiar with the Playbook by downloading the digital version online or ordering a paper copy.
  4. Can I apply as an individual, or do I need to be part of a team?
    Answer – You can apply individually or as part of a team. Individual applicants are advised to ensure the necessary approvals required to implement the proposal have been obtained.
  5. Who will determine the winning awardees?
    Answer – A committee of representatives from AMLE and ASA selected by the AMLE Chair of the Board of Trustees will evaluate each proposal against the Playbook Challenge Scoring Rubric and make a selection as to the final three winners. A conflict analysis will ensure that the committee members do not have any ties to the candidates or their schools.
  6. What are the contest rules and regulations?
    Answer – You can find the complete contest rules and regulations here.
  7. Are there any registration fees?
    Answer – No. It is free to submit a proposal for the Playbook Challenge.
  8. When will the winners receive their prizes?
    Answer – The winners will receive their prize money by March 15, 2022, as long as all required acceptance and tax forms have been adequately completed and returned to AMLE.
  9. Can I submit more than one proposal?
    Answer – You may submit more than one proposal, however prizes are limited to one per educator and one per school.
  10. If I win the Challenge, am I required to attend #AMLE22 in November?
    Answer – Winners of the Playbook Challenge will receive complimentary registration and an invitation to present at #AMLE22: The Annual Conference for Middle Level Education. However, we know that it is not always possible for educators to find time away from the classroom to attend. If you are unable to attend in person, you may choose to provide a virtual presentation and be recognized virtually rather than in person.
  11. Who is sponsoring the Challenge?
    Answer – The Playbook Challenge is a collaboration between AMLE and American Student Assistance. AMLE is the only international organization of its kind for middle school educators. With a community more than 35,000 members strong, AMLE is the go-to source for middle level education peer-reviewed research, best practice, and professional development.  American Student Assistance® (ASA®) isn’t just any nonprofit. We’re shaking things up, so students like you can make informed decisions about your education and career goals. You’ll find us online, in schools, and in communities driving change through digital innovation, partnerships, and advocacy. Together with national leaders and educators, we’re committed to helping you know yourself, know your options, and plan for your future.


Contact AMLE at with questions related to the Playbook Challenge or for assistance creating your proposal.