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T3 Alaska Program

T3 Alaska UB Students Impress Washington D.C.

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Early in 2024, U.S. Representative Mary Peltola, the first Alaska Native woman elected to Congress, toured the new Makerspace classroom at North Pole High School. She extended a casual invitation to students that, should they find themselves in Washington, D.C., they should drop by her office. A few months later, that chance arose when a group of T3 Alaska students traveled to Washington DC with a lofty agenda.

The trip was led by T3 Alaska Program Director Adam Low, and accompanied by T3 Alaska Workforce Development Coordinator Gabriel Low and student chaperone Sarah Stenek, a Geosciences major at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The four selected students are actively involved with TRIO Upward Bound, T3 Alaska, T3 statewide Earth Observation, Energy, or Makerspace clubs, and in their communities. The students include Timothy Garcia from Wrangell and a junior at Mt. Edgecumbe High School, who is working with the U.S. Forest Service to map remote cabins and trails. Layla Workman, a sophomore at North Pole High, programmed an earthquake alarm system, and helps teachers at her school learn how to use their new makerspace. Audrey Cleveland, a junior at Kuinerrarmiut Elitnaurviat, is using soil-temperature sensors to track permafrost degradation that is causing building damage in her town. And Sydney Lincoln, a junior from Peltola’s hometown of Bethel, is working to rig a flood warning system that could alert people during spring breakup.

In D.C., the four promising students had an opportunity to present their stories to a national audience. The entourage gave presentations to the Office of Naval Research and National Science Foundation leadership, and met with congressional representatives. “A big thing for me is when someone important in politics asks directly, ‘What can I do to help?’,” says Sarah Stenek, and “That they give the time to listen to students during their busy day.” These federal agencies, along with congressional support, help fund programs such as TRIO Upward Bound and T3 Alaska whose goals are to prepare students for post-secondary education and career success. The stories they told provided a direct connection between policy and student outcomes which positively impact communities in Alaska.

Lincoln also had the honor of introducing Representative Peltola at the 2024 Council for Opportunity in Education seminar where she presented “What D.C. Can Learn from Alaska.” In addition, the Upward Bound students toured George Washington and American University college campuses. They enjoyed a special tour of the multi-media studio at George Washington University and saw themselves on-air as news weather anchors. Lincoln expressed being able to see herself at American University, particularly because of their pre-college transition program, “that seems supportive if I went to college that far away.”

Inspiring as that experience was, operating a F35 flight simulator on a tour of the Lockheed Martin facility had high marks on the bucket list too. Other student highlights included an impromptu late-night McDonald’s snack in front of the Washington Monument, and scootering around the city. The students also visited the National Museum of the American Indian and learned about culture and U.S. history.

For more information on T3 Alaska or the UAF Upward Bound program visit t3.alaska.edu or contact Adam Low alow@alaska.edu.

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