In many ways, Taylor Hoffman is your typical college student – he enjoys playing basketball, snowboarding, playing the guitar and ukulele, lifting weights and spending time outdoors hunting and fishing. However, Taylor is actually far from an ordinary college kid. Originally from the small town of Bethel, Taylor grew up living a traditional Yup’ik lifestyle and attended the Yup’ik immersion school in Bethel through sixth grade. Taylor is proud of and grateful for his connection to his heritage, but he realized that access to higher education is very limited in his hometown.
As a senior in high school, Taylor was exploring options to pursue a college degree while being also maintaining a focus on his cultural values. That’s when he found ANSEP. Taylor became involved with ANSEP as a Summer Bridge student right after his high school graduation. Through the component, he worked a paid internship for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service while earning credits for a college math course.
“The best part of Summer Bridge was being surrounded by peers who enjoyed sharing their Native heritage while working towards a common goal,” said Taylor. “Through my internship with the USFWS, I worked on the Fort Yukon-Fairbanks Fuel Project to develop fuel conservation techniques. By creating underground heating systems, you can save energy and create a positive impact in the local community.”
When Taylor enrolled at the University of Alaska Anchorage, he knew he was passionate about STEM education but hadn’t decided on a career path. Through ANSEP’s University Success component, Taylor completed additional internships and mentorships that sparked an interest in the health care industry. While interning with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Taylor became involved with the with the Behavioral Health Department and Dental Therapy Education Program.
“Through University Success, I was mentored by four different dentists and had the opportunity to shadow doctors, pharmacists and an ENT,” said Taylor. “I want a career where I can help people and really make a difference in the community.”
Currently a junior, Taylor is on track to graduate from the University of Alaska Anchorage in the fall of 2019. With a major in natural sciences and a focus in pre-health, he plans to attend medical school or dental school after graduation. Although the classes are often challenging and he has a long road ahead, Taylor says his favorite part about ANSEP is the relationships and community.
“ANSEP surrounds you with people who provide comfort, support and encouragement while also holding you accountable,” said Taylor. “During the summer, we have meetings each Friday when I interact with other students, professors and mentors. We exchange our experiences and grow together while developing a better idea of our long-term career goals.”
Taylor may not know if he wants to be a doctor or dentist yet, but with the help of ANSEP, he is on track for a bright future!