Tehya Tucker, Inupiaq, was born and raised in Nome, Alaska, by her hard-working father who has always pushed her to achieve greatness despite any obstacles that stood in her way. While Tehya has always been interested in math, it wasn’t until she attended her first ANSEP Middle School Academy that she realized she was destined to become an engineer. Tehya said the experience opened her eyes to the excitement of engineering as well as her natural ability to solve problems.
“I’ll never forget my first bridge build during Middle School Academy. Everyone chose a boxy-shaped bridge design, but not my team. We thought a semi-circle would be able to withstand the most pressure. It was tough at that age – drawing the shape, making the right angles out of wood and gluing it all together. But, we worked together and somehow figured it out. And, we were right! Our bridge held over 150 pounds. When it finally broke, I grabbed all the pieces because I wanted to keep them forever! I just remember watching the weight go up and up. It was the greatest feeling, and our team was so happy,” Tehya said.
Fascinated by her experiences at ANSEP and newfound drive to focus on her studies, the once introverted Tehya broke out of her shell at school and became involved in several extra-curricular activities. She participated in sports, volunteered in her community, took the lead as president of her school’s National Honor Society and was even named class president her junior and senior year. Meanwhile, Tehya continued to spend her summers at ANSEP, participating in three consecutive Acceleration Academies, something she says attributed a great deal to her academic success.
“I love the atmosphere at ANSEP. We’re all just family and friends working together toward a common goal. Regardless of whether you’re working through a really tough math problem or out playing paintball, everything is more enjoyable together,” said Tehya. “ANSEP motivated me to become active in my school and made the path to college clearer. It helped me realize how important it is to do well in school and stay ahead.”
Tehya’s drive not only led her to graduate as valedictorian from Nome-Beltz High School earlier this year, it’s taking her out of state for college this fall in pursuit of new experiences and a degree in construction engineering technology. Rather than taking time off to celebrate her successes, Tehya spent the summer with her family at ANSEP and completed a statistics class as well as an internship through Summer Bridge.
The excitement Tehya exuded after her first bridge build was replicated by her first paid civil engineering internship with the U.S. Forest Service. The opportunity allowed her to get hands-on experience working alongside a senior engineer on several of the agency’s projects across Southcentral Alaska, including a multi-year redesign of the Russian River entrance, roadway and campground. Tehya enjoyed her internship so much that she decided to extend it an extra three weeks to get additional experience before heading to college.
“I loved my internship so much! I had the opportunity to work with engineers between Anchorage and Chugach doing planning, reviewing and taking elevation measurements for several different projects. I really learned a lot,” said Tehya. “My dream is to have projects of my own one day, though. I want to be in the field and contribute to projects in rural Alaska. I grew up there, I know what life is like there and I want to give back.”
Although we’ll miss seeing Tehya’s bright face at ANSEP, we are confident she’ll use the knowledge she’s gained to power through her studies and look forward to welcoming her back to Alaska with a college degree in hand.