You may recognize her from Gov. Walker’s PFD press conferences, but we know Shania Sommer as an eighth-grade ANSEP student who just wants to make a difference in our state’s future. Shania is currently a standout student at ANSEP’s new Acceleration High School at Valley Pathways in Palmer, where she is getting the education she needs to pursue a career in biology as an Alaska Wildlife Trooper.
According to Shania, her path to a STEM career began when the ANSEP staff helped her hone in on her math skills.
“I always liked math, but I struggled with it until I found out about ANSEP. With their help, I spent an hour working on problems every morning until I understood it,” Shania said. “Now I’m really good at math!”
After that, Shania became interested in participating in an ANSEP component, and she attended Middle School Academy in 2014. The summer after her fifth grade year, Shania spent two weeks at the academy on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus, where she built a computer, participated in earthquake simulations and constructed bridges. Afterward, a conversation with her uncle sparked her interest in following his footsteps to help preserve Alaska wildlife.
“My uncle is a wildlife state trooper,” she said. “After my first Middle School Academy with ANSEP, my uncle started to talk to me about my future. For a while, I wanted to be a civil engineer. That was until my uncle told me how our state’s fish and game help control the moose and salmon populations so we don’t run out.”
A true Alaskan, raised between Fairbanks and Wasilla, Shania often spends time hunting and fishing with her family, which makes preserving Alaska’s wildlife even more important to her. With inspiration from her uncle, Shania spent two summers participating in ANSEP’s STEM Career Explorations component, which solidified her passion for science.
“We observed doctors as they diagnosed patients and had the opportunity to help them by prepping the lab. I even held a human heart and lung,” Shania said. “It was really cool learning about different opportunities available with a science degree.”
Today, Shania is continuing to work toward her dream of becoming an Alaska Wildlife Trooper at Acceleration High School and plans to attend ANSEP Acceleration Academy this summer. As for her political career, Shania says she is open to booking another PFD unveiling in the near future. She is available Monday through Friday after she finishes her homework.