Katelyn Piper may come from a small town, but her dreams for the future are big. A 12-year-old from Kotzebue, Alaska, she already knows that she wants to be a marine biologist when she’s older. Thanks to the Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program she has already taken the first steps towards her STEM career.
When she was in fifth grade, Katelyn’s teachers recommended she get involved with ANSEP’s STEM Ready component. She had so much fun learning about math and science through interactive games and team-based activities that she applied for Middle School Academy. She was accepted and traveled to Anchorage to complete the component in the fall of 2017.
“It was really cool to meet other students my age from all over the state. In many ways, we were very different – but we all loved science and math! The ANSEP teachers also taught us teambuilding skills so we learned how to work together,” said Katelyn.
In the summer of 2018, Katelyn returned to ANSEP for the health sciences STEM Career Exploration session, during which Alaska AHEC (Alaska Area Health Education Centers) program professionals led interactive activities focused on heart health, brain safety and cancer research. Her favorite part was the mock diagnosis that gave students a chance to practice being real doctors.
“It was really neat. One person would pretend to be sick and share their symptoms. Another student would be the ‘doctor’ and figure out what was wrong,” said Katelyn. “It was like solving one big, interactive puzzle.”
Katelyn enjoyed learning about health sciences at the STEM Career Exploration component because she thinks many of the skills can be applied to her future job as a marine biologist working to protect and conserve Alaska’s sea life.
“I love Alaska and want to live here when I’m older, but that means protecting and preserving the ocean,” said Katelyn. “ANSEP is helping me realize how one person really can make a difference by working as a scientist or biologist.”
Katelyn loves math and science, but in her spare time, her favorite thing to do is read fiction novels because they have something in common with the ocean. The content is vast, and the possibilities are endless.
Katelyn looks forward to spending many more summers with her new ANSEP friends. She has a massive appreciation for the educational opportunities that she receives as an ANSEP student, but her favorite part of the program is the community.
“At ANSEP, we’re having so much fun together that we forget we’re actually learning,” said Katelyn. “Then, at the end of the activities, we think about all the new information we gained and all the people who helped us along the way. It is a really cool process.”