Aleknagik and Wasilla, Alaska
Frederick Coolidge (right) and Joseph Lopez (left) graduated from different high schools, but both plan to attend the University of Alaska Anchorage this fall. Over the summer they came together as part of Summer Bridge, a competitive internship component of the Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program (ANSEP). Frederick, who is from Aleknagik in Southwest Alaska, plans to get his computer engineering degree. Joseph, who grew up in Wasilla, is planning to pursue electrical engineering.
Though they are from different parts of the state and want to pursue different areas of engineering, over the past couple of months the two Yup’ik ANSEP students have shared the experience of being interns at ExxonMobil. In addition to being a longtime ANSEP contributor, the company brings its ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp to ANSEP annually, benefitting more than 50 middle school students from around Alaska. ExxonMobil has provided meaningful Summer Bridge internship placements for ANSEP students for many years, and just last year the company announced a $600,000 donation to ANSEP.
Frederick and Joseph are two recent high school graduates who were among the group of 25 Alaskan students who participated in ANSEP Summer Bridge. Based at the University of Alaska Anchorage, this is a residential component designed to provide a learning experience as well as support students during the transitional period between high school graduation and entering University of Alaska schools in the fall. As part of Summer Bridge, Frederick and Joseph completed a college math course before being placed in their internships.
“ANSEP provided me with the opportunity to get a head start on my future. I’ve already taken three math classes that apply to my degree,” said Joseph, who has also participated in ANSEP’s Acceleration Academy component in previous years. “My favorite thing about ANSEP is getting to meet new people, and I’ve had the opportunity to do the same at ExxonMobil.”
For Frederick, a significant part of his experience has been learning what it is like to work in the oil and gas industry. He explained, “I really enjoyed the internship. We got a feel for what it might be like to work there. I met so many people and asked them about their profession. It really helped me put everything into perspective.”
When asked about his favorite part of the internship, Frederick said it was working in the geology department. “We learned to calculate the age of a rock and how the Exxon team uses that number to determine what it’s surrounded by and whether they should drill or not. It was really cool.”
According to ExxonMobil Senior Geoscience Advisor Hank Jamieson, the first step for a Summer Bridge intern is learning the different departments and how they all work together.
“The students were assigned to pull information that helped us determine where oil might be and where best to drill,” said Hank. “They worked within our database to pull numbers and statistics that were later categorized and discussed as a team. It was encouraging for me to see that their interest spiked once they started learning about rock and core samples. Both students were very diligent and responsive; but most of all, I saw improvement over the summer, which is all I can ask of any employee.”
According to Hank, the information Frederick and Joseph compiled is still assisting the ExxonMobil team even though the ANSEP interns have now left ExxonMobil and are packing up to head to college.
“My favorite part was that I wasn’t just doing busy work; I was actually helping,” Joseph said.
Frederick and Joseph began the summer as acquaintances, but they’ve now grown closer by sharing this Summer Bridge experience.
“It was really nice having someone to work with who could relate to what I was going through. We split up the work and went to one another when we had questions. It was nice having that support and going through it together rather than alone,” Frederick said of his colleague and friend Joseph.
ANSEP is confident that Frederick, Joseph and the entire Summer Bridge group will be successful during their first year of college, which starts on August 24. Through their hard work, determination and perseverance, they’ve already overcome an obstacle that far too many Alaskans must struggle to achieve – being academically and socially prepared for college.