In the late spring, schools across Alaska celebrate high school graduation and the journey that begins as students leave public school for career or postsecondary education and adult life. For students who choose to attend college, planning often begins at a young age.
Early college awareness programs are a meaningful way for many families, especially those with little to no college experience, to start imagining the possibilities that can come from aiming for college admission after high school and for increasing the odds of achieving a college degree.
In the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District (FNSBSD) the ‘North Star to Nanook’ program aims to create just such an opportunity.
Named for the symbols of both the FNSBSD (the North Star) and the University of Alaska at Fairbanks (UAF) Nanooks, the ‘North Star to Nanook’ program is a partnership between the school district and the university aimed at promoting “early awareness of college opportunities for elementary students enrolled in Title I schools, by providing them with access to our own local university campus.”
Through this program, 3rd and 4th grade students attend field trips on the UAF campus to gain exposure to what college is and what college students do. Campus tours are lead by UAF student ambassadors, and include visits to college classrooms, student spaces like cafeterias, sample dorm rooms and athletic centers, and the famed Museum of the North. Parents are encouraged to accompany their students, and often it also becomes their first experience on a college campus as well.
Of her class visits to UAF, Beth Roth, a 2nd/3rd grade teacher at University Park Elementary said, “Since our visit, my students have frequently talked about their visit to UAF and what a great time they had. The science department was fascinating to them. My students now discuss college as a viable option, even though they are only 3rd graders.”
The University also celebrates the impact of the program on its campus. Mary Kreta, UAF Associate Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management said this of the program: “North Star to Nanooks is an opportunity for all of us at the university — students, faculty and staff — to share our passion, knowledge and excitement about the wide variety of opportunities that await students at UAF. We talk to these kids about their goals and what it takes to get from where they are to being a college student. We want them to spend time on campus so they know that UAF is here for them now and in the future.”
For more information on the ‘North Star to Nanook’ program, you can view their website here: https://sites.google.com/k12northstar.org/northstartonanook/home?scrlybrkr=e0534054
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