Choosing what you are going to do for the rest of your life is one of the most difficult and daunting decisions a person faces. Being a high school senior with an endless list of course offerings to consider doesn’t make the decision any easier. Luckily for Roberta Walker, her high school counselor noticed her aptitude for the sciences.
After Roberta settled on a future in science, she applied for ANSEP’s Summer Bridge component to get some real-world experience before starting her college career. Roberta submitted her application for Summer Bridge and anxiously waited to hear back. She remembers it being a big relief when she was accepted and placed in an internship.
“I worked for the U.S. Forest Service at Redoubt Lake, where we monitored Sockeye and Coho salmon,” Roberta said. “I thought it would be a great opportunity to work outside all the time, and I really enjoyed my time working at Redoubt Lake. Sockeye salmon are the main subsistence fish there. We monitored the salmon and provided information to Fish and Game to help them make informed decisions on how much fish each person could catch. We also did a mark-recapture project to study escapement.”
Roberta believes that, if it weren’t for ANSEP, she would still be in her hometown and would not be pursuing a career in science, which will allow her to work outdoors like she’s always dreamed. In addition, ANSEP has encouraged Roberta to travel and to explore different learning and work experiences. She just began her sophomore year at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where she is on track to earn a degree in geoscience. When asked about the transition to college, she said that ANSEP was instrumental in getting her prepared not only academically but also socially.
“The transition to college is tough. It’s nothing like high school. There’s so much freedom, and you don’t know what to do,” Roberta recalls. “I really didn’t know how to discipline myself at first, but I am doing much better now. ANSEP has helped me to be more disciplined and to be responsible with this freedom. I got to take college courses and be a part of a study group. That was a great experience – working with others is a huge help instead of doing the job all by myself. ANSEP really encourages us to work together.“
Roberta says that her father, who always tells her to stay focused on school, has been a huge inspiration and is a great source of strength for her. Roberta said that she also looks up to Michael Ulroan, an ANSEP alumnus who is now ANSEP’s regional director. Michael tells ANSEP students to repeat the words, “Nothing can stop me from reaching my goals.” Roberta takes that message to heart and says it helps keep her going when things get tough.
“I love how much opportunity there is in the world, and it makes me realize I don’t want to stay in one area for too long. It’s all because ANSEP showed me that the STEM field is so large and full of possibilities. The world is so big, and I want to experience as much as I can,” she says.