Helping Alaska’s Students Succeed: Local Learning Opportunities to Help Ensure Their Success

Aug 19, 2019, 14:25 PM by Denali 

Kids learning about robotics

Living in Alaska brings many unique opportunities to students. No matter the age or interest—students can find an extracurricular activity, contest, or event suited to them.

At Denali, we are dedicated to supporting education and financial literacy for the next generation. We’ve compiled a list of programs that can help kids for the next school year, and even help set them up for college. Most importantly, they’ll learn valuable skills, make friends, and helps them cultivate their passions. Here are some of the best programs available:

Anchorage Opportunities

For Future Engineers:

The Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program or ANSEP is dedicated to promoting science, technology, engineering and math among Alaska Native middle, high school and college students. As part of BP’s gift to STEM programming at UAA, ANSEP Summer Bridge funded nine student interns this year. Summer Bridge places students in internships with the aim of preparing them for college and the professional world. The program itself is based at UAA’s campus in Anchorage, but the internships can take students across Alaska.

For College-Curious Juniors:

Ciuneq is a program that helps young people in West Alaska find pathways to higher education. They take high school students on tours of colleges, universities, and trade schools to spark the conversation around higher ed and give young people a point of reference. They also provide workshops and scholarships. This year Ciuneq brought a group of eleventh-grade students to Washington, DC and New York City for Ciuneq is a program within the nonprofit Coastal Villages Region Fund (CVRF), which aims to support Alaska’s fishing communities through professional and community development.

For Writers:

Does your child love to write stories, poems, or songs? Is English, lit or creative writing your teen’s favorite subject? Are they thinking of being active in publications in high school or college? UAA and the Anchorage Daily News host a yearly creative writing contest. They accept submissions from contestants all across the state in fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction. If your high school student has an interest in writing, this is a great way to get experience they can put on their college application. Plus there are cash prizes!

For Future Medical Professionals:

The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, in partnership with Alaska Pacific University, has launched a new program for Alaska Native/American Indian health professionals and researchers at every stage of their career. The Alaska Indigenous Research Program is working to increase Alaska Native/American Indian visibility in healthcare and medical research. Offered in three, one-week courses, your aspiring health professional may be eligible for their introductory or intermediate week. Participants learn about research methods and research ethics with an emphasis on cultural responsiveness. 

For Juniors, Seniors and Job Seekers:

School’s just starting and you (and your teen) are already feeling the college search crunch. Or maybe your student is looking at career opportunities beyond college. This October 13 and 14, the University of Alaska Anchorage will host their 38th Annual Anchorage Alaska College and Career Fair. Nearly 100 colleges, universities, and staffing agencies will be in attendance for the two-day event. Fairs are an invaluable resource for making connections or even just finding out about postsecondary opportunities your child may have never thought about.

Fairbanks Opportunities

For Dancers:

The Pioneer Park Dance Center offers a weekly open dance practice. Dance is an outlet for both creativity and fitness, and pursuing it as a regular practice will give your child skills for school and beyond. Many families may find themselves limited from pursuing certain extracurriculars like sports or dance because they trend on the expensive side. What’s great about this meet-up is, at $3 admission, it’s a low-cost way for your child to take up dance as an extracurricular. (Attendees are just asked to bring clean, non-marking shoes to protect the dance floor.) This event is hosted by Ballroom Dance Club of Fairbanks.

For Young Historians:

The state affiliate of National History Day®, Alaska History Day is a competition for middle and high school students brought to you by the Alaska Humanities Forum. Students get to research and present on a topic of their choosing related to the year’s theme. By the end of it your child will have produced a website, performance, documentary, exhibit or paper and gained valuable insight into the research process. This is a chance to make connections with other students and teachers as well as prepare them for research projects in high school and college. Submissions that make it to the national level even get to compete at the National History Day Contest, which is an awesome opportunity for travel and education (this year’s was held at University of Maryland, College Park). This contest has a regional event in Fairbanks as well as statewide.

For Musicians:

Do you have a musician at home? The Fairbanks Symphony Orchestra hosts an Annual Concerto Competition. This competition recognizes outstanding instrumentalists and vocalists with the chance to perform in concert with the FSO. If you have a musician of an orchestral instrument or a vocalist in grade 11 or up, this is an incredible opportunity. Students compete in three categories: up to 12 years, 13 - high school senior, and collegiate. Competitors also have the chance to win a monetary award. The 2020 competition, including rehearsals and a performance, will take place at Davis Concert Hall at UAF, Fairbanks.

For Techies:

Fairbanks North Star Borough Public Libraries are home to Girls Who Code clubs in two branch locations. Girls Who Code is an organization dedicated to reducing the gender gap in STEM careers. If your daughter is in grade 6-12, this is an opportunity to connect with other students and learn in-demand skills. It’s also a great way to get your child ahead for school, with many academic programs requiring computing, logic, and coding. And the coordinators provide computers for attendees to use, so there’s no barrier to entry.

Kenai Opportunities

For Young Roboticists:

BP has partnered with UAA’s College of Engineering to bring STEM opportunities to students and professionals. Their investment is supporting new programs at UAA this year. One is BP Summer Engineering Academies. Among their regular programming, they’ve also been able to add a yearly LEGO Robotics summer session in Kenai. Students entering grades 3-12 will get to learn about engineering hands-on with this creative and engaging program. Foster your child’s love of science, give them a unique social opportunity and start the conversation on pathways to college and beyond.

For Future Biologists:

Kenai Fjord Tours offers the Marine Science Explorers Program or MSEP. This program allows Alaskan students to experience our state’s gorgeous natural offerings aboard the M/V Alaska Explorer. An unparalleled hands-on experience, it’s a chance to apply concepts from class in the real world. There’s a reason they call it an “onboard classroom”: kids use all five senses to learn about marine life, from salinity to interdependence.

For Inventors:

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District hosts Caring for the Kenai, an annual competition for students. Each year there are calls for pitches from students about developing and giving back to their community. This year’s prompt was, “What can I do, invent or create to better care for the environment of the Kenai Peninsula or improve the area’s preparedness for a natural disaster?” Projects have incorporated 3D printing and engineering. Students compete for honors and cash prizes. (Note that students in participating schools can apply on their own, even if it’s not a class assignment.)

For Future Skilled Leaders:

Looking to get your high school student more involved in clubs? Students interested in technical, skilled and service occupations have the chance to take part in SkillsUSA at participating high schools in the peninsula. Kids can learn leadership and applicable job skills during the school year as members of their school’s chapter. Teens also get to compete annually in the SkillsUSA Career and Technical Education Student Organization Conference, or CTSO. Competitions have covered subject areas from culinary arts to welding to public speaking.

For Study Buddies:

It can be hard getting your teen back into the routine of switching into homework mode. But one of the best ways to ensure their success this school year is through peer accountability. That’s where study groups can be a great resource for your middle or high school student. Whether they need some extra help in one subject or want a new environment to work in, the Soldotna Library offers teen study groups every Thursday. It’s a free way to connect with peers in the community and empower your teen to take charge of their own learning. 

Promoting long-term student success

Alaska has so many opportunities for all kinds of students to get involved in academic and extracurricular activities. With incredible partnerships and programs serving locally and statewide, there’s no better place to broaden horizons and inspire young minds. Yet for all of these students—from future business owners to artists and computer programmers—a solid understanding of personal finances is fundamental for success. A good income won’t matter if they spend everything right away and don’t have savings to fall back on when the unexpected occurs. Kids need to know how to manage their money.

We want all students to have the opportunity to learn about this important topic. That’s why we offer resources for our members on our blog, and a young adult checking account for members ages 13 to 23. Getting started early can teach kids life-long money management skills that will set them up for success in the future. To learn more about young adult checking, click here.