Kaelyn Stalker, an Inupiaq from Kiana, Alaska, has always been passionate about protecting the state’s wildlife. Growing up, though, she never imagined it would become part of her daily life as a STEM professional. The summer before sixth grade, Kaelyn attended ANSEP Middle School Academy and learned how biologists use science and math to preserve Alaska’s wildlife. Since 2011, she has progressed through the ANSEP pipeline, participating in Acceleration Academy, Summer Bridge and now University Success.
Kaelyn, who is studying biological sciences at the University of Alaska Anchorage, took time from her busy schedule to share how ANSEP helped her prepare for college and put her on track for a STEM career.
ANSEP: How has ANSEP helped get you where you are today?
Kaelyn: In middle school, I started with ANSEP, which got me interested in science. Since the beginning, my favorite part of visiting ANSEP year after year was the hands-on learning style – we were doing more than just learning from books. After high school, I earned a college math credit and completed a paid internship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through ANSEP Summer Bridge. I traveled across Alaska working as a weir technician, sampling fish populations and conducting an otter-breeding project. Starting college that fall with college credits and real-life work experience helped me feel confident and more prepared than ever.
ANSEP: In addition to academics and job experience, how did ANSEP help get you ready for college?
Kaelyn: They guided me through the application process, helped me register for classes and provided financial assistance as well as financial advising. However, the best skill they taught me was time management, which helped me be more productive in my classes.
ANSEP: Tell us about your first year as a college student and how you’ve stayed involved with ANSEP.
Kaelyn: I’m really enjoying my time at UAA. I’ll become a full-time student this fall and look forward to ANSEP’s weekly recitations. ANSEP provides a supportive, family-style community and it’s great to know I’ll be able to connect with my peers and share our academic successes each week.
ANSEP: Do you plan to complete any additional internships while you’re in school?
Kaelyn: Through University Success, I’ve stayed involved with the USFWS and will intern in Kiana this summer. I’ve always wanted to help preserve the environment and am really excited to work for the USFWS again, this time sampling the fish populations in my hometown.
ANSEP: How is ANSEP helping you plan for your future?
Kaelyn: Through mentorships and internships, ANSEP is giving me a taste of what my future career will be like. My dream job is to be a fish or marine biologist.
ANSEP: What is your favorite part of ANSEP?
Kaelyn: The best part of living in Alaska is the state’s natural beauty and how genuine the people are. ANSEP has shown me a career that will allow me to stay here to protect the land and lifestyle my friends and family love.
Kaelyn is expected to graduate in 2022. Her advice to other students interested in STEM education is to work hard, stay focused and never lose sight of your dreams!