Justis Geerdts has wanted to become an engineer for as long as she can remember. Unfortunately, the classes available to her weren’t challenging her the way she needed. Then she heard about ANSEP – a program and community where she could live like a college student while getting a head start on the classes she needed for an engineering degree. Justis immediately applied for Acceleration Academy, a five-week, all-expenses-paid summer ANSEP component for high school students. She was hooked from her first hands-on, team-building project: creating a Rube Goldberg machine.
“We had several small groups each creating a small piece of the puzzle that would ultimately become part of one big movement as a collective group. It was great working as a team and putting our minds together to figure out how our small piece would become part of the overall goal. It was a challenge, but it was one that I enjoyed. It made me realize how much I like engineering,” Justis recalls.
Now 18 years old, Justis participated in another Acceleration Academy before graduating high school earlier this year. Today, she is an ANSEP Summer Bridge student with several credits toward her degree in civil engineering and plans to attend the University of Alaska Anchorage in the fall. In the meantime, you can find her at BP Alaska, working on emergency water supply plans as a paid engineering intern or on campus, familiarizing herself with the rigors of college life alongside her ANSEP peers while taking a college class.
According to Justis, the engineering internship has opened her eyes to the opportunities available within the career field as well as the many different areas of engineering. Justis sees herself staying in Alaska after earning her degree, and one day she hopes to work out in the field. Though she still has a lot to learn, Justis is thankful to ANSEP for guiding her along the path to a college degree and career success as well as instilling the concept of teamwork in her mind at an early age. She says her first teamwork lesson at ANSEP has stuck with her to this day, and she truly believes that teamwork is the pathway to success.
“ANSEP taught me that working together is vital to becoming strong leaders in the engineering field,” said Justis. “It allows us to put our minds together and release a flow of creative juices that will help us build the next generation for our state.”
Thanks to generous support from the Association of Village Council Presidents, more students from the Yukon-Kuskowim Delta are being exposed to ANSEP’s proven educational methods. AVCP joined ANSEP last year as a strategic partner. AVCP’s three-year, $1.5 million grant is allowing ANSEP to expand its reach in the YK Delta and for more students from the area to arrive academically and socially prepared for college and their careers.