STEM and Support Through In-School Programs

Whether a student needs a binder, some pencils, a feminine pad, or a pair of black shoes for choir, Natalie Wolgemuth’s got it.

Central Middle School students in CITC’s Design Alaska Club visit the CITC Fab Lab.

As the CITC Counselor/Youth Advocate with the Passages program at Central Middle School, Natalie provides support to CITC teachers and Anchorage School District (ASD) teachers alike, while also making sure that students have the support they need to succeed.

That support comes in all forms, from school supplies, to snacks, to advice.

Part of the Passages program at Central Middle School, Design Alaska allows students to use science and technology to create projects of their own design.

“Just communicate,” she told one student who is behind in science class and concerned about catching up. “When you don’t communicate, then they think you don’t care, so you’ve got to stay on top of it.”

School can be hard for any student. But when other factors, like poor health or unemployment, affect a family, the student is affected, too. Natalie’s job is to help break down those barriers to her students getting a quality education.

“For instance, the student who just came in was living in a shelter last year, so we bought them some clothes,” Natalie elaborated. “This year, one of their requirements is they need black shoes and black pants for choir. We can help with things like that.”

CITC partners with ASD to offer in-school programs like Passages, Journey Ahead, and Transitions, which provide this kind of support. Most of these programs also include instructors who teach language arts, math, or science classes that incorporate Alaska Native culture and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Passages also offers an after-school 3D design club called Design Alaska. In class, Fab Lab Instructor Cail Hubert leads students in projects that complement what they’re already learning; after school, they can join Design Alaska to create their own STEM projects.

“It’s all about getting kids more interested and engaged in their core subjects, then carrying that over into an interest in STEM,” Cail explained.

Design Alaska includes weekly trips to CITC’s Fab Lab — but thanks to the grant funding Passages, CITC now has 20 design computers on-site at Central Middle School (along with eight additional computers at Airport Heights, which also hosts Passages). The schools also have several 3D printers on-site.

The computers, pre-loaded with design software, enable students to create and design their own projects before they visit the Fab Lab.

“That means once we get to the lab, we can do the fun stuff,” Cail said.

Passages offers assistance to students throughout Central Middle School and Airport Heights, regardless of ethnicity, though the program is focused on Alaska Native and American Indian students. But Cail hopes to empower the kids to give back to their communities through Design Alaska Projects.

“We’d like to do some community-oriented projects that allow the students to solve problems they want to solve,” he described. “Like, if we visit an Elders’ home, what can we build that would be helpful? It gives the students freedom to come up with their own projects and an opportunity to help others.”

For more information about Passages and other in-school programs, visit citci.org/education/in-school-programs/.

The Passages program is available at both Central Middle School and Airport Heights Elementary (pictured here).