Nikiski and Takotna, Alaska
Josephine Mattison, Athabascan, has always been passionate about higher education. She believes it is the key to success and opportunity. Growing up in the small town of Nikiski and the village of Takotna, Alaska, Josephine took her first step toward becoming an advocate for higher education when she left home and enrolled at the University of Alaska Anchorage.
After earning undergraduate degrees in psychology and sociology, she wanted to make sure others had the same opportunities she did so she earned a master’s degree in teaching. While working at the Anchorage School District, Josephine learned about ANSEP and how the program supported students like her, who grew up in rural Alaska and want the opportunity to pursue higher education. While encouraging ASD students to get involved with ANSEP, Josephine grew passionate about the program’s mission to effect systemic change in the hiring patterns of Alaska Native students in science and engineering degrees. It was then that she joined the ANSEP family. Josephine says she immediately felt at home with ANSEP, an organization that celebrates and honors cultural values while simultaneously embracing diversity.
Diving into her new role as ANSEP Middle School Academy director, she focused on long-term career development for students as young as 10. According to Josephine, the most important piece was getting middle school students and their support network to understand that what they do today will affect their futures. By starting the conversation about college and careers at an early age, she helps students take their first steps toward college readiness.
Today, Josephine’s favorite part of working at ANSEP is seeing students grow and achieve academic success in such a monumental way throughout their involvement with the program. Josephine has done quite a bit of growing at ANSEP herself over the past six years, though. In addition to continuing to develop her own education, she now helps to oversee ANSEP’s full-time Acceleration High School component, which allows students to begin taking college classes as early as eighth grade.
“Since I transitioned from the middle school to the high school level, I’ve been able to follow the success of individual students and watch their dreams come true,” said Josephine. “It is a rare gift to work with a fifth-grade student and see him or her grow all the way through high school and beyond. Seeing them each progress and go on to accomplish their goals is an amazing feeling. They are such an inspiration to me.”
In fact, her students have inspired Josephine to continue her education, and she is now working toward applying for a doctorate in education.