Kenai student spends summer focused on learning

Ruscia-lea Colton of Nikiski was not going to spend her summer idle, and thanks to the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program at the University of Alaska, she is ensuring her summer is spent continuing her education.


This summer, Colton and 26 Alaskan students are bridging the gap between high school and college by earning valuable professional experience through ANSEP’s Summer Bridge Component.

“I think it is a really good opportunity,” Colton said.

Some of the goals of the program include students ability to develop a peer group and to meet mentors, earn money needed for college and solidify the students vision of a career in the sciences or engineering.

This is Colton’s third summer participating in ANSEP programs. She said her high school counselor helped introduce her into the program.

“I was really into math and science and he proposed it,” she said.

After graduation from Nikiski Middle High School this year, Colton began taking a summer trigonometry class at University of Alaska, while living in a dorm on campus at UAA and working as an intern at Shell.

Colton’s time at Shell has been spent interviewing the logistics team, as well as working on a United States Strategy for the Arctic presentation.

Karen Spring, Colton’s supervisor and logistics manager for Shell’s Alaska Venture, said that Colton’s performs office duties and prepared the information to present to the 40-person team about the U.S. Strategy for the Arctic.

“She briefed the logistics department about it,” Spring said. “(The internship) has given her real opportunities in a business environment.”

Ruscia-lea agreed.

“They have a lot more to do than I thought,” she said. “It has given me a better understanding of working in an office.”

Spring said Colton also prepared and presented an air crash statistic report comparing single engine and double engine aircrafts, as well as single pilot versus dual pilot information, all great experience toward Colton’s goal of becoming a mechanical engineer.

“I think it has been a great opportunity for Ruscia-lea to be here,” Spring said. “And for us to help her.”

Colton and four other Shell interns also took safety and cultural awareness training to prepare them for a trip to see field locations in Barrow next week.

While taking the summer math class, Colton worked eight-hour days, once the class finished, her worked days increased to nine hours days.

Michael Bourdukofsky, Chief Operations officer with ANSEP, said the program works with students of all backgrounds. The Summer Bridge program, in particular, helps set students up with motivation and confidence and preparing them to transition into full-time college classes, while having an income.

“I think this is an very unique and awesome opportunity,” Bourdukofsky said. “They get the experience and they also get a pay check.”

Upon successful completion of the internship, he said students are then eligible for scholarships for approved science, technology, engineering and math programs.

Bourdukofsky explained that the ANSEP programs is a longitudinal education model that provides a continuous string of components beginning with students in middle school and continuing through high school, into undergraduate degree programs and through graduate school to the PhD.

“Students can get involved with ANSEP as early as sixth-grade,” he said, with the focus and goal to increase national roles of leadership.

Overall there are more than 1200 involved with the programs middle, high school and college programs, as well as alumni.

Bourdukofsky said students, like Colton, spend the summer immersed in the internship, math class and living on UAA’s campus.

“They are living like college students all summer,” he said

According to the ANSEP website, the Summer Bridge program started with eight students in 1998 working at BP.

During summer 2011 there were 25 students involved in internships throughout Alaska. In 2013, 27 students are working with major businesses including Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Bureau of Land Management, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, United State Fish and Wildlife Service and United States Geological Survey.

“We want them to be challenged during the summer,” he said.


Sara J. Hardan can be reached at