Mt. Edgecumbe seniors speak against a proposal by ANSEP, the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program, to create an accelerated high school at the Mt. Edgecumbe campus. (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)

NOTE: Erica Willis and Xochitl Martinez, two Mt. Edgcumbe High School seniors, took to the microphone during their bi-weekly radio broadcast last night (02-02-16), to comment on ANSEP’s proposal to create an accelerated high school at Mt. Edgecumbe. Here is their commentary. 

Downloadable audio.

Erica Willis: The past week or two have left our school in a bit of a tizzy due to the situation that’s come up. Last Wednesday (01-27-16), lawmakers got a proposal from the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program, also known as ANSEP, to change Mt. Edgecumbe High School as we know it in some fairly drastic ways. And though our school and ANSEP have had good relations and a strong partnership in the past, this was brought before the legislature without consulting any of the people who actually run Edgecumbe.

The proposal called for reforming Mt. Edgecumbe into a three-year accelerated high school under the control of ANSEP. This would mean all the current teachers and staff would have to become University of Alaska employees. Most of our experienced, certified teachers and administrators would lose their jobs within two years. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. ANSEP would put all of their focus into preparing graduates for careers in science and engineering, possibly requiring students to have already taken Algebra I before attending this new Edgecumbe.

Xochitl Martinez: Let’s take a quick look at the mission statements. ANSEP states on their website that their objectives are to “effect systemic change in the hiring patterns of Alaska Natives in science and engineering by placing their students on a career path to leadership.”

Willis: Edgecumbe’s mission statement reads: “To provide a challenging, unique education in a residential setting that values rich cultural diversities and traditions, inspiring Alaskan students to become successful, responsible, global citizens.”

Martinez: As we can hear from these two simple statements, neither one is inherently bad, but we do have different goals, if similar intents. One big difference is that the majority of ANSEP students who don’t come from Mt. Edgecumbe are from the Bethel and Matanuska-Susitna areas, whereas Edgecumbe places a high focus on communities without schools at all, all across Alaska.

This fact is kind of an important one because it’s really what sets the difference between the suggested program and what Edgecumbe already has.

At Edgecumbe, you can already graduate in three years if you want.

At Edgecumbe, you can put your focus into STEM classes if you so choose.

At Edgecumbe, you’re entering with whatever education your previous school gave you, and they aren’t going to turn you away because yours might not have been as good as the next kid’s. You enter from wherever you came and you leave with the preparation to go into whatever path you choose: teaching, science, engineering, fine arts, welding, whatever your dream may be. As of 2013, 84% of Edgecumbe’s graduates already go on to attend universities or technical schools.

Edgecumbe might need a little more funding, but we don’t need an entirely new system.

Willis: In short, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Martinez: Thanks for listening.

The following opinion piece does not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Raven Radio, its Board of Directors, staff, or volunteers, or of Mt. Edgecumbe High School, its staff, students, or Advisory Board, or of the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development. It should be heard as solely the opinion of those speaking.