ANSEP spreads pre-college education to rural high schools

For students in rural communities, UAA is reaching out.

The Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program, an organization created to give the indigenous people of Alaska an equal opportunity in the science and engineering fields, has found a new way to provide high school students in Alaska’s rural villages a head start for college. The program provides them with the educational and economic resources they need to prepare for college that are unavailable to them.

Dr. Herb Schroeder, founder and executive director of ANSEP, created the High School Component, designed to catch students at an early age and help them prepare for college. The students face only one challenge before taking part in the High School Component, which is to enroll in and complete upper-level science and math courses like trigonometry, chemistry, and physics at their high school.

From there, students are taught to build their own computers, which they keep at the end of the program. Students are also paired up with college students who are currently participating in ANSEP’s college programs.

The number of students who are participating or who have already participated in the High School Component is soaring past 500 students, with a whopping 59 percent completed trigonometry, chemistry, and physics before graduation. ANSEP urges all students to apply, even as early as their freshman year. They also accept juniors and seniors as well. Those students who take part in the High School Component and wish to join the Summer Bridge program to get a head start for college are awarded scholarships upon completion. In the past, about 85 percent of the students who have completed the Summer Bridge program have continued on to earn their bachelor’s degree in the science or engineering field or are currently enrolled.

Funding for ANSEP comes from an ongoing list of industrial partners with some even offering scholarships for the college programs in return for the student’s internship. These partners provide students with the technological resources, such as the computers, while the schools provide the learning space and Internet access. By working together with their industrial partners and the high schools in Alaska’s rural villages, ANSEP is able to offer these students the education they deserve without costing the students anything.

The ANSEP Alumni Fund provides scholarships for students, which ANSEP’s industrial partners match the alumni donations. The alumni committee sets requirements, and students who meet these criteria are rewarded with the scholarship money.

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“With this growing number of graduates, the potential is limitless,” said Michael Bourdukofsky, one of ANSEP’s regional directors.

“This is an academic community that is built to support everyone involved. Though it seems like ANSEP has rapidly grown in the past couple of years, the growth is not expected to slow,” Bourdukofsky said.