What do you want to be when you grow up? It is a question we’ve all been asked. At first, children tend to respond with unrealistic options like cowboys and princesses, but students who are exposed to all the science, technology, engineering and math career options decide they want to become astronauts, doctors, professors or scientists.
Success doesn’t happen overnight. It is the result of hard work and opportunity. By providing access to STEM education to students from across Alaska, the Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program is creating opportunities for students starting at the middle school level and continuing through the collegiate, graduate and doctoral levels.
At Middle School Academy, the first component in the ANSEP pipeline, we challenge students to question the world around them and think outside the box. They build their own PC computers, they build bridges out of Balsa wood and complete a variety of other hands-on STEM projects that require critical thinking and teamwork. Living on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus, Middle School Academy students experience the college lifestyle, build relationships with peers who share a love for STEM education and gain first-hand insight into the importance of higher education. Developing these learning skills and having these shared experiences are crucial parts of students’ success.
At STEM Career Exploration, a five-day residential component, students who previously attended Middle School Academy have a chance return to ANSEP. They work alongside experienced professionals to learn the ins and outs of the daily life for people who have pursued different STEM careers. This component helps students realize that an interest in frogs and snakes could lead to a career as a herpetologist or a video game fanatic could become a successful computer coder or game developer. Fostering enthusiasm for STEM careers provides students with a sense of direction and encourages them to continue on their path to higher education.
After middle school, ANSEP students can get involved in Acceleration Academy (Summer), (UAA) or (Mat-Su) to further develop their academic and social skills. Acceleration Academy (Summer) is a five-week, residential component during each summer at UAA. Acceleration Academy (UAA) and (Mat-Su) are full-time components that allow students to be enrolled in ANSEP throughout the school year. By having the opportunity to earn college credits and learn material beyond their grade level, Acceleration Academy students gain more confidence and also develop study skills necessary to succeed at the university level. This component allows Alaska’s students to be college ready by earning two years or more of college credits toward a variety of baccalaureate degree programs.
For many students, especially those who come from rural communities, transitioning from high school to college is challenging. ANSEP Summer Bridge can help connect the pieces as students gain valuable career development through paid internships, earn college credit toward their degree and foster relationships with other incoming college freshmen.
ANSEP continues to support students once they graduate from high school and become full-time college students. University and Graduate Success students come together for weekly recitations and build relationships with professors, peers and mentors. Their paid summer internships provide them with valuable career experience and the connections often lead to fulltime post-graduate jobs.
One of the most important components of ANSEP is community, though. ANSEP provides students with support and encouragement, creating a sense of belonging. Within this close-knit community, students develop a network of peers and mentors to turn to when they need guidance or even just a study partner.
From middle school all the way through the collegiate level, the ANSEP pipeline lays the groundwork for student success. ANSEP plays a critical role in helping students build their future and is proud to be developing Alaska’s next generation of innovators and leaders.