ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Earlier this month, 12 middle school students from Hawai’i arrived in Anchorage to join 24 Alaska middle school students in the Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program’s weeklong Middle School Academy. The students from Hawai’i joined ANSEP from the Malama Honua and Ke Kula ‘o Samuel M. Kamakau Laboratory Public Charter Schools.This was the first time students outside of Alaska participated in Middle School Academy.
ANSEP’s Middle School Academy is designed to get students involved in science, technology, engineering and math early in their academic journeys at no cost to students or their families. In this ANSEP opportunity, students engaged in a variety of STEM-focused, hands-on activities such as building computers, learning about marine sciences, and using K’NEX to understand earthquake engineering — all while collaborating with like-minded students from other communities. When students learn early on that they can achieve big things, like building their own PC, they are more likely to set big goals for themselves and take strides to achieve them.
“Middle School Academy is a fantastic introduction to STEM education and careers at an early age, and we’re so excited to expand our reach through partnerships beyond Alaska,” said ANSEP Director Matt Calhoun. “Not only did students have the opportunity to engage in hands- on STEM activities, they also met like-minded students from communities outside their home state and were introduced to other cultures.”
The ability to bring academic opportunities to students, both in Alaska and beyond, is made possible through the support of ANSEP’s strategic partners. Alaska Airlines, one of ANSEP’s long-time strategic partners, graciously provided transportation at no cost for the Hawai’i middle school students and chaperones from Honolulu to Anchorage, making this opportunity to advance their education available at no cost to them or their families.
“We could not expand our Middle School Academy and other opportunities to more Alaskans or students who are part of our partner programs outside Alaska without the support of our strategic partners like Alaska Airlines,” said ANSEP Director of Special Projects Michael Bourdukofsky. “The growth of ANSEP over the last two decades and the success of thousands of students who have benefited from the program are direct results of support from partners like these.”
ANSEP opportunities, such as Middle School Academy, are especially valuable for students from small, rural or island communities who otherwise may not have access to the advanced academic, social and professional opportunities that ANSEP provides.
By focusing on early engagement and providing comprehensive support, ANSEP has successfully increased the number of Alaska Native and other students pursuing STEM education and careers at no cost to students — and it can help even more students do so. Between 1980 and 1995, ANSEP’s founding year, only three Alaska Native students had graduated from the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA); however, from 2001 to 2021, 829 Alaska Native students have graduated from UAA. ANSEP’s proven educational approach can be adapted by other organizations with similar goals and help students across the country achieve their academic and career goals while contributing to the STEM workforce and deepening student’s ties with their respective cultures.
Elementary, middle and high school students across Alaska as well as university students who are interested in participating in ANSEP can learn more and apply to opportunities at www.ANSEP.net.