Joyell Acuna

    Wednesday, October 14, 2015

    Anchorage, Alaska

    Growing up in Anchorage is full of challenges and it’s easy to feel small in the biggest city of the largest state. Meet ANSEP student Joyell Acuna (Athabascan), a young lady that has thrived here in Anchorage and met every challenge thrown her way. Joyell was first inspired to pursue Engineering by her uncle who received his Engineering degree out of state. Joyell remembers talking with her uncle and thinking how cool and fun his work was, which was just her first taste of how exciting STEM could be.

    Joyell became involved with ANSEP while she was attending Service High School, starting with Acceleration Academy in the summer of 2011. During Joyell’s Acceleration Academy experience, she truly began to understand what Engineering was and how it applied to the world around her. There she built her first computer and had a general idea that Engineering was creating things. During a balsa wood bridge build, Joyell had an epiphany; “we were debating adding gusset plates but couldn’t tell if we should or not, that’s when Herb took us out to the main room [at ANSEP] and he pointed to the struts showing us that even the building had gussets. That’s when I realized they were pretty important.” 

    The following summer Joyell completed Summer Bridge, where she started her internship with British Petroleum (BP); Joyell has since interned with BP every summer since 2012 working side by side with Engineers all across Alaska.

    Joyell attributes much of her success to ANSEP and the system of support provided there, “Not only did they [ANSEP] show me what engineers do, but they gave me opportunities to succeed, even getting me my first internship, and the ball has been rolling ever since.” That’s not to say that Joyell hasn’t had challenges; just as countless students before her, Joyell had difficulty with visualizing Chemistry and Circuits. It was confusing at first, but the weekly ANSEP recitations really helped. There was the added benefit that almost every class Joyell took, another ANSEP student would be taking it with her. There was always someone available at ANSEP to help.

    Using that momentum from ANSEP opportunities, Joyell has made her family proud with every obstacle she triumphs. Joyell says there’s nothing more satisfying than “seeing my parents’ glowing with pride when I tell them I get an A on a test...” or knowing that she provides a good example to her younger siblings. Joyell had that exact opportunity when she gave a speech during the opening ceremony of UAA’s new Engineering & Industry building; while she was onstage, her younger sister was staring up with wide eyes at what her big sister had accomplished. That alone made Joyell feel really great about everything she’s been doing, knowing that she inspires others, especially those close to her, to achieve greatness as well.

    One of Joyell’s largest motivators for hard work and success is her love for learning and understanding how things work. That’s also why Joyell sees such an importance for STEM education, as understanding STEM makes it possible to solve the world’s greatest problems. It’s this same appeal that leads Joyell to hope for a career working with the UN to build refugee camps and schools for people who would otherwise have very little to nothing. With so much potential in her future, Joyell states that she really wants to end up back in Alaska where she would enjoy becoming a teacher or professor with real world experience, which Joyell finds to be the most enjoyable and easiest to learn from. After just 3 years at UAA, Joyell has earned 95% of the credits needed to finish her Bachelors of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering; just one semester left and she’ll be loose on the world to make it better everywhere she goes.

    Though Joyell may be leaving the halls of ANSEP and UAA, she does have some words of wisdom for up and coming ANSEP students who are pursuing or interested in STEM degrees:

    “Go for it! Don’t give up even if it takes you awhile to do it. Herb told me ‘it’s not a race’ and I think that is so very true, as long as you get it finished. Yeah, it will be difficult at times, but that’s why ANSEP is here to help. Don’t give up because of small failures.”