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An equation for success: How ANSEP paves the way for STEM careers

May 7, 2019

Katherine Sakeagak and Lisa Paton may not see each other at school every day, but they have quite a lot in common as students who are part of ANSEP’s full-time Acceleration Academy component.

Both young women play the ukulele, but this is not what truly sets them apart from their peers. Both will graduate high school this year with more than a full year of college credits on their transcripts when they enroll as full-time students at University of Alaska Anchorage this fall.

Katherine currently attends Acceleration Academy (Mat-Su), and Lisa is enrolled at Acceleration Academy (Anchorage). Initially, Acceleration Academy (Mat-Su) was ANSEP’s only full-time component, but the program launched Acceleration Academy (Anchorage) in fall 2018. Lisa is part of its first-ever graduating class.

At ANSEP’s full-time Acceleration Academy, students enroll in classes through UAA. They experience college-learning while earning credits towards a variety of baccalaureate degrees. At no cost to the students or their parents, the innovative Academies prepare them for college academically and socially.

Students who enroll the moment they begin high school have the opportunity to earn more than 60 college credits, save two years or more in college costs and enter the workforce as early as age 20.

As Katherine and Lisa prepare for graduation, we caught up with them to learn more about their ANSEP experience and intended career paths.

ANSEP: You are both getting ready to close a chapter in your lives, but let’s start with how it all started. How did you first get involved with ANSEP?
Katherine: My family has been involved with ANSEP since the beginning. My dad was one of the first students in the program when Dr. Herb [Schroeder] launched it in 1995. I’ve grown up considering myself part of the ANSEP family. My dad encouraged me to apply as soon as I was old enough. I attended Middle School Academy and Acceleration Academy (Summer) before enrolling in Acceleration Academy (Mat-Su) as a junior.
Lisa: When I was a freshman in high school my teacher told me about ANSEP. I applied and completed two Acceleration Academy (Summer) components before enrolling in the inaugural year of Acceleration Academy (Anchorage).

ANSEP: What has been your favorite part of ANSEP?
Katherine: ANSEP provides me with academic opportunities that I couldn’t get anywhere else. At Acceleration Academy, I am taking semester-long courses that really dive into the subject matter. The UAA professors are engaging and present the materials in an easily understandable way.
Lisa: My favorite part about ANSEP is the community. I’ve made so many friends who share my interest in STEM education and academic success. We’re in class with many of the same students and teachers all day long. This allows us to build really special connections with people who help and encourage us.

ANSEP: What is your favorite class that you’ve taken at UAA with the Acceleration Academy?
Katherine: Math is definitely my favorite subject, specifically Calculus 2. I’ve learned there are so many different ways to teach the same concepts. My professors work with students to find the method that makes the content stick for them. It is great to see how a little bit of individualized help makes us all succeed.
Lisa: I loved the UAA Yup’ik language course. My family members are fishers from Bristol Bay, so I’ve grown up hearing the language. Now, I know how to speak it and understand its cultural nuances. It’s great to be part of a program that promotes cultural heritage.

ANSEP: What’s one obstacle you’ve overcome as an ANSEP student?
Katherine: Growing up, I thought I was bad at math. Once I took Algebra 2, I realized I’m actually great at the subject. Even when I thought I wasn’t good enough, ANSEP mentors encouraged me until I could succeed on my own. I’m even confident enough to help tutor other students now!
Lisa: School used to feel intimidating. Upper-level courses like Calculus sounded scary because I didn’t know anyone who had ever done it. When I joined ANSEP, I started making straight A’s. I realized that learning isn’t scary when you have great teachers and friends to help you study. I am now confident in myself and my capabilities.

ANSEP: Do you feel like ANSEP has helped prepare you for college?
Katherine: ANSEP has helped me prepare for college in more ways than I can count. At Acceleration Academy, I learned the study skills necessary to be successful. I also built relationships with other students who are on the same study track, so we help each other.
Lisa: ANSEP definitely prepares students for college. I wouldn’t be as ready for college as I am today without help from ANSEP. In addition to developing an understanding of how the college schedule works, Acceleration Academy builds confidence. As a high school student, I am already enrolled in college courses and succeeding. If I can do it now, I know I can do it in college, too.

ANSEP: What are your plans for this summer? And beyond that?
Katherine: I’ve already been accepted to ANSEP’s Summer Bridge and look forward to finding out my paid internship placement. When I enroll at UAA this fall, I’ll be working towards my bachelor’s in mathematics and possibly a double major in civil engineering.
Lisa: After graduation I am also doing Summer Bridge. I am hoping my internship placement will be with the Bristol Bay Native Association as a summer fisheries intern. It would be really fun to learn more about the science behind my family’s livelihood. After Summer Bridge, I’ll enroll full-time at UAA. There, I’ll study math and possibly double major in electrical engineering.

ANSEP: What excites you most about college?
Katherine: I can’t wait to take even more math courses. I’ve loved the UAA college courses with the Acceleration Academy and am excited to see all the possibilities in the course catalog.
Lisa: I’m excited about meeting more people in the ANSEP community. I have several friends from Acceleration Academy who are all attending UAA. It will be so cool to all study different programs but still be able to meet for recitations through University Success.

ANSEP: What is your dream career?
Katherine: My dad works as a civil engineer in Barrow and my aunt is an engineer at Arctic Slope Regional Corporation. I’d love to follow in their footsteps and work as an engineer. Eventually, though, I dream of becoming a professor where I can inspire the next generation of STEM students. I love helping and teaching others!
Lisa: With a degree in mathematics, I will have many options. I am interested in becoming a teacher because I like the idea of helping people. However, math research is so exciting that I am leaning more towards that.

ANSEP: Do you have any advice for younger ANSEP students?
Katherine: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Be comfortable talking about math, asking questions and turning to teachers, classmates and even students in other classes for help. At ANSEP, you’re part of a community that’s invested in you and your success.
Lisa: Whatever it is, go for it! Don’t be afraid to try hard, work hard and make your dreams a reality. At ANSEP, we succeed.

With the help of ANSEP, these students are already making progress towards achieving their dream STEM careers and inspiring others to follow in their footsteps. Students and their parents who want to learn how to get ahead academically can learn more at