Student Success Stories

Francis Pingayak

Francis Pingayak

Francis is from the village of Chevak, a village of about one thousand residents and located about five hundred miles, as the crow flies, west of Anchorage is a relatively new school to our program.

Francis joined us for the AVTEC Mini-bridging session in 2017. In this particular session at AVTEC, students explore the career pathways offered there, dabbling in areas of study such as heavy diesel technology, culinary arts, maritime, and more.

In addition to career paths, they can prepare for post-secondary exams including ACCUPLACER, TABE, WorkKeys and ACT. They meet with the admissions and financial aid departments and they study and take the driver’s permit and/or the driver’s license exams. Drug and alcohol awareness along with suicide awareness and prevention training is also offered and students complete and outdoor leadership trip where they hone their leadership skills.

Francis is currently living in Chevak and working for the Chevak Company Corporation.

Alaska EXCEL achievements:

  • AVTEC Mini-bridging (2017)

Kobe Rivers

Kobe Rivers

Kobe is from the village of Scammon Bay, a small community of fewer than 500 residents at the mouth of the Yukon River.

Credit recovery in 2017 was when we first met Kobe. In the Credit Recover session he has the opportunity to study high school math or language arts. The sessions are intensive and enough “seat time” is provided in the ten-day session to enable the students to earn one half high school credit.

EXCEL’s Academic Decathlon & Career Fair was Kobe’s second session with us. At this particular event, Kobe interviewed and was accepted for the MAPTS Capstone program, one of our signature events for recently graduated seniors. MAPTS – Mining and Petroleum Training Service – is a University of Alaska program, this one located just outside Delta Junction, Alaska. MAPTS offers courses in surface mining as well as underground mining. Our students complete the surface mining course which gives them experience driving a variety of heavy equipment and large haul trucks. Additionally, students continue to learn and apply employability skills including filling out time sheet each day they are at the camp.

The MAPTS Capstone program includes a two-week paid internship which immediately follows the training at Delta Junction. Students are placed in one of Calista’s subsidiaries in an entry-level job and earn a wage. Many are retained for summer hire following their internship.

Kobe has worked seasonally for Brice, Inc. following his training at MAPTS. He is looking for work right now and we are certain he will be one of the first hired at the beginning of the construction season.

Alaska EXCEL achievements:

  • Credit Recovery (2017)
  • Academic Decathlon & Career Fair (2017)
  • MAPTS Capstone (2017)

Jayden Duny

Jayden Duny

Jayden if from Marshall, Alaska, a village of about 450 residents, located on the Lower Yukon River.

Jayden’s first session with us was the 2016 summer XL in Soldotna at Kenai Peninsula College and Alaska Christian College. In the Summer XL program, students have the opportunity to live on campus and experience dorm living along with attending classes taught by faculty from the facility.

Subsequent to the Summer XL program, Jayden attended the 2017 Post-secondary Prep session where he worked on preparing for the world of education after high school. Students can work on resumés, applications, FAFSAs, study for entrance and placement exams, asking for letters of recommendation, and more.

In 2017, Jayden also attended the Academic Decathlon & Career Fair where he interviewed and was accepted for the MAPTS Capstone program, one of our signature events for recently graduated seniors. MAPTS – Mining and Petroleum Training Service – is a University of Alaska program, this one located just outside Delta Junction, Alaska. MAPTS offers courses in surface mining as well as underground mining. Our students complete the surface mining course which gives them experience driving a variety of heavy equipment and large haul trucks. Additionally, students continue to learn and apply employability skills including filling out time sheet each day they are at the camp. Immediately following their two weeks at MAPTS, students complete a two-week paid internship with a Calista subsidiary.

Since his time with EXCEL Alaska, Jayden has worked seasonally for Brice, Inc. at Fort Knox (April to August) as well as for Donlin Gold, LLC. Recently, Jayden was accepted into AVTEC’s Heavy Diesel Maintenance program and is currently filling out scholarship applications. We wish him the best for is future!

Alaska EXCEL achievements:

  • Summer XL (2016)
  • Post-secondary Prep (2017)
  • Academic Decathlon & Career Fair (2017)
  • MAPTS Capstone (2017)

Patrick Hale

Patrick Hale

Patrick started coming to EXCEL sessions in 2016 from Hooper Bay, a village of just over 1,200 on the westernmost coast of Alaska. His first session was the CTE Carpentry / Welding Camp. He was very successful and continued to load his “toolbelt” with skills learned from several other camps. His skills and certifications he earned, such as NCCER Core, seamlessly lead to the next camp he attended. The last session Patrick attended was the MAPTS Capstone at the Delta Mine Training Center, just outside Delta Junction.

All of Patrick’s training aligned him well to be successful in each subsequent training session and his graduation from MAPTS helped him move into seasonal work with Donlin Gold.

Donlin Gold continues to look for EXCEL graduates, like Patrick, particularly from the MAPTS program to work their summer schedule. The work ethic Patrick learned from our sessions has put his application to work at the top of the heap.

Alaska EXCEL achievements:

  • CTE Carpentry / Welding Camp (2016)
  • Heavy Equipment Operations Camp (2016)
  • Post-secondary Prep (2016 & 2017)
  • AVTEC Mini-bridging Camp (2017)
  • Academic Decathlon & Career Fair (2017)
  • MAPTS Capstone (2017)

Carly Kelila

Carly Kelila

Carly found Alaska EXCEL in 2012 in his hometown of Aniak, Alaska, and from his experience with EXCEL we found him to be a valuable asset as a part-time activity coordinator, drawing on his success in the program.

Making the most of the opportunities EXCEL has to offer, Carly attended twenty different career camps or sessions until he graduated from high school in 2017. His favorite thing about being an EXCEL student was meeting new people and seeing the EXCEL staff, whom he looked up to a great deal.

After graduation, Carly worked at the local AC Store and completed the necessary legwork to join the U. S. Coast Guard. Carly left Alaska for the very first time to go to basic training. He has since graduated from the training and was assigned his first port of call in Port Angeles, Washington. Although he was nervous, his excitement was impossible to contain.

We know Carly as an exemplary student and wonderful role model for his community and our current students. On occasion, he traveled with our staff to share his story, encourage others, and help educate the students and community on the different opportunities EXCEL offers and how helpful we were to him.

Carly plans to gain additional training and certification as an Aviation Survival Technician thought his time with the Coast Guard.

EXCEL Alaska Achievements:

  • Math/Science Expedition (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)
  • Camp Kick Ash / ETT & Fire (2014)
  • CTE Carpentry Camp (2014)
  • Kuskokwim Sky Riders Ground School (2015, 2016)
  • Academic Decathlon & Career Fair (2015, 2016)
  • Summer XL (2015, 2016)
  • George River Internship (2016)
  • EXCEL 12 (2016)

Carlene Liskey

Carlene Liskey

Carlene came to us in 2011 from Tuluksak, a small village of less than 400 residents, so shy we could hardly get her to say her name. She has a long list of accomplishments since her first appearance at our driving school. She came back for Summer XL in 2011 at Alaska Pacific University.

In Aniak, Carlene joined us for Camp Kick Ash, an experiential learning program to teach high school students to become Emergency Trauma Technicians and Fire Fighter interns. More advanced students come back for Camp Kick Ash II, where they gain advanced training for EMT1 Certification.

Carlene has accomplished even more since she graduation from high school. She went on to UAF and completed the paramedic program and at South Central Foundation she completed the CNA program. With EXCEL, she participated in the 2016 Summer XL Resident Mentor Paid Internship as well as the Summer XL Resident Advisor. She worked for us part-time in 2016/2017 as a temporary mentor/chaperone and even went to the MAPTS training center in 2016. Most recently, Carlene became a certified CTT instructor.

Currently, Carlene is an EXCEL instructor, working on paraprofessional credentials. We couldn’t be more delighted Carlene is working for us and we couldn’t be more proud of her accomplishments. And she says her name loud and clear!

Alaska EXCEL achievements:

  • EXCEL Driver’s School (2011)
  • Summer XL (2011)
  • Camp Kick Ash / ETT Certification (2011)
  • Camp Kick Ash II / EMT Certification (2012)

Jeremiah John

Jeremiah John

Jeremiah is from a small village in western Alaska with a population of around 350. Jeremiah joined us for only one EXCEL session, Summer XL. However, that one session was enough to make Jeremiah want to attend AVTEC and study welding. Summer XL is for students in grades 10-12 and is a 30-day relevant, hands-on, intensive learning camp held on a post-secondary campus such as AVTEC or Kenai Peninsula College in June. Students stay on campus for the month to experience dorm life and prepare for their future. Students can choose from a variety of training classes, such as carpentry, welding, culinary arts, or heavy diesel technology, depending on the hosting campus. The summer Jeremiah joined us, welding technology was one of the options. He must have liked it, he enrolled in the combination welding class at AVTEC.

Combination welding at AVTEC is a 10-month-long program where students are hands-on learning and practicing welding about six hours each day. They graduate with certificates in hand in both structural and pipe welding. We are so grateful to have been able to be a small part of Jeremiah’s education and to be lucky enough to be the ones who steered him toward AVTEC.

Our heartiest congratulations Jeremiah for his successful graduation from AVTEC’s rigorous welding program!

Alaska EXCEL achievements:

  • Summer XL (2016)

Robyn Hunter

Robyn Hunter

Lower Yukon School District sent us great students and Robyn is one of them. Robyn went to school in Scammon Bay, a central Yup’ik village of about 500 residents on the west coast of Alaska, below the mouth of the Yukon River. 2015 was the first year Robyn came to us, she enrolled in CTE Carpentry Camp.

In 2016, Robyn came back for the Academic Decathlon & Career Fair in Aniak. The Decathlon is EXCEL’s fun-filled four-day event which includes individual competitions in math, science, speech, essay, social studies, and keyboarding. Students also find a lot of fun with the team events such as volleyball, basketball, engineering, and poster design.

Also, in 2016, Robyn attended Heavy Equipment Operations Camp. In the HEO camp, students spend twelve days training on front end loaders, forklifts, excavators, and bulldozer simulators, all the while earning a variety of certifications.

2017 brought Robyn back to us for ETT and Fire Fighting, followed by EXCEL 12. Students choose a career path, either directly into the workforce, postsecondary education, or the military. Making that choice, students will apply for scholarships, make campus tours, they write their resumés and cover letters. They might practice for the ASVAB or they might find and apply for jobs. Robyn also joined us for the Academic Decathlon & Career fair, her last session with us.

Since Robyn graduated from high school, she has enrolled at Alaska Christian College. We are sure she is taking herself to a successful future.

Alaska EXCEL achievements:

  • CTE Carpentry Camp (2015)
  • Academic Decathlon & Career Fair (2016, 2017)
  • Heavy Equipment Operations (2016)
  • ETT & Fire (2017)
  • EXCEL 12 (2017)

Ian Massey

Ian Massey

Ian is from Manley Hot Springs, a village in the Yukon-Koyukuk School District. Manley Hot Springs is on the road system, but it’s a very long road, mostly gravel and it’s about a four and a half hour drive west of Fairbanks.

EXCEL’s Carpentry/Welding Camp offers a peek into those two particular trades and it is those subjects that interested Ian and motivated him to come to camp. In 2017 Ian came to us to find out more. In this camp, students have the opportunity in each of those career fields to earn nationally recognized certificates, as well as nationally recognized NCCER certification. In carpentry, Ian learned through experience how to read blueprints, how to measure accurately, and use tools safely. He also learned how to put in a floor, walls, ceiling, roof, and how to frame for window and door installation. In the welding sessions, Ian learned oxygen-acetylene cutting, oxyfuel processes, and welding different kinds of metal joints.

Later the same year, Ian joined us for the Heavy Equipment Operations camp, hands-on training on equipment such as front-end loaders, forklifts, and excavators.

Every student going through EXCEL has time to work on their Personal Learning & Career Plan, their PLCP. Students work on their PLCPs through the Alaska Career Information System, AKCIS, which also offers online career exploration and finding occupations to match their interests. Ian found he didn’t want to go into the trades right now, but did find his way to UAF where he is currently studying justice. We wish him all the best!

Alaska EXCEL Achievements:

  • Carpentry / Welding Camp (2017)
  • Heavy Equipment Operations Camp (2017)

Simon Andrews

Simon Andrews

It’s amazing in a village of just over 800 people, over 500 miles west of Anchorage, where not a single road connects the two, Mountain Village’s Simon Andrews discovered EXCEL Alaska. Surely someone told him about EXCEL, either a wonderful administrator, teacher or even a classmate who had attended an EXCEL session. In any event, we are sure grateful they did!

Overall, Simon joined us off and on spanning two years of his high school career, exploring his options though EXCEL programs. Starting at the 2015 Academic Decathlon & Career Fair, Simon first dipped his toe in the ocean of opportunities offered to him to find out more about careers and leadership. Also, in 2015, Simon found out about being a carpenter. He and other students built a shed and learned a great deal about tools, how to use them, and about job-site safety.

The Decathlon must have been a good fit for Simon, he came back for round two in 2017. The Academic Decathlon & Career Fair is the shortest of EXCEL events, but it also has the largest attendance, usually somewhere near 150 students representing close to twenty villages. A little over a month later, he attended Summer XL, the longest event EXCEL offers, most summers it’s thirty days!

His first of three events in 2017 was the ETT & Fire Camp and yes, it’s just like it sounds. Students about being an emergency and trauma technician and about fighting fires. Students love this session because it’s not only exciting, but it puts them in an excellent position to give back to their communities. Many of our students work with their volunteer fire departments.

Event number two of 2017 was EXCEL 12. Students truly find out about life in the real world, about budgeting for rent, utilities, vehicles, and the wages they must earn to support those things. They learn about postsecondary options, military options, and how to search for jobs.

Simon’s final event with us was his third decathlon. We think if there was a decathlon of decathlons, Simon would have attended. We enjoyed him and are thrilled he found so much value in EXCEL. Last we heard from him he had just enrolled in Alaska Christian College. We wish him all the best!

Alaska EXCEL Achievements:

  • Academic Decathlon & Career Fair (2015, 2016, 2017)
  • Carpentry Camp (2015)
  • Summer XL (2016)
  • HEO Camp (2016)
  • ETT & Fire Camp (2017)
  • EXCEL 12 (2017)

Alexis Woellert

Alexis Woellert

You may have heard about Manley Hot Springs, a famous Iditarod musher is from there, Susan Butcher. But someone you may not have heard of from Manley Hot Springs is Alexis Woellert. Manley Hot Springs is one of the villages in the Yukon-Koyukuk School District with a very active advocate for Alaska EXCEL. The YKSD CTE director pointed Alexis in our direction and in 2014 Alexis came to us for the CTE Welding Camp. Welding Camp is an introduction to welding, students learn oxygen-acetylene cutting, oxyfuel processes, and welding a variety of metal joints. Students study the NCCER Level 1 modules, and nationally recognized curriculum.

In 2015, Alexis joined us for Summer XL, thirty days of intensive study. Students have a variety of strands in which to choose to study, the options are based on the programs of study offered at the campuses at which the Summer XL sessions are held.

Alexis joined us for twelve days for Heavy Equipment camp where she learned to run big machines such as loaders, dozers, excavators, and forklifts. Also, in 2015, Alexis came to the AVTEC Mini-bridging Camp and spent nearly a week on the AVTEC campus investigating all their programs of study. Clearly, she was very impressed with AVTEC, she enrolled and graduated from the Heavy Diesel Technology program. What a wonderful education for a very talented young lady!

Alaska EXCEL Achievements:

  • CTE Welding Camp (2014)
  • Summer XL (2015)
  • HEO Camp (2015)
  • AVTEC Mini-bridging Camp (2015)

Kevin Otto

Kevin Otto

Otto came to us from the village of Kongignak, one of the villages included in the Lower Yukon School District. The school is small, by most standards, an enrollment of about 170 in grades from PreK to 12. Otto started coming to EXCEL events in the summer of 2016, to Summer XL. He must have heard good things, he jumped in with both feet and came to Soldotna to be with us for an entire month.

He went on to the Heavy Equipment Operations camp, also in 2016, and learned a great deal about running big equipment such as front-end loaders, forklifts, and excavators over 12-day session. Students in this session earn a number of certifications, often giving them the edge over the competition when construction jobs are in their villages.

In 2017, Otto joined us for Summer XL, this time held at AVTEC in Seward. In Summer XL, students spend the four-week session immersed in a subject such as heavy diesel technology or culinary arts and can earn .5 high school elective credit. Right after the Summer XL, Otto had just over a month back home before he came back to us for the George River Internship. The GRI is another opportunity for students to .5 high school credit, this time in science. Additionally, they earned a $500 stipend. The GRI is in partnership with the Alaska Department of Fish & Game and students are often hired to work on fish weirs in the summer.

Otto lives in the village where he grew up, working as a substitute teacher in the school where he graduated. We hope he tells his students about the good times he had and the wonderful things he learned at EXCEL and sends more to us.

Alaska EXCEL achievements

  • Summer XL (2016, 2017)
  • Heavy Equipment Operations Camp (2016)
  • George River Internship (2017)

Michael Vanhatten

Michael was a senior in high school in the village of Minto when he heard about EXCEL from the YKSD’s CTE director, Patti Woody. She thought he would be a good fit for the Career & Technical Education program EXCEL offers. So, in 2017, before Michael graduated from high school, he signed up for the AVTEC Mini-bridging session. At this session, Michael was able to tour AVTEC, stay on campus, meet with advisors, and tour all the programs offered on the AVTEC campus.

He then signed up for EXCEL 12, where students run their session, under guidance from our staff, as if it were a corporation. In this session, students choose a path, either direct into the workforce, postsecondary education, or the military. Making that choice, students apply for scholarships, make campus tours, write their resumés and cover letters. They might practice for the ASVAB, or they might find and apply for jobs.

After EXCEL 12, Michael applied to go to MAPTS and came to the Academic Decathlon & Career Fair for his interview. He was accepted and went on to Delta Junction where he received the surface mine training which includes driving big haul trucks, a skid steer, a dozer, and a forklift. He received MSHA certification and continued on to a 2-week paid internship with one of Calista’s subsidiaries.

Since his time with EXCEL, he has moved to Fairbanks and has become more interested in welding. So much so, he enrolled and graduated from the combination welding program at AVTEC in December 2018. We are so very proud of him!

Alaska EXCEL achievements:

  • AVTEC Mini-bridging (2017)
  • EXCEL 12 (2017)
  • Academic Decathlon & Career Fair (2017)
  • MAPTS (2017)

Kerri Kelly

Kerri Kelly

Kerri came to us from Pilot Station, Alaska, located on the northern bank of the lower Yukon River, approximately eighty miles from the Bering Sea. She started attending EXCEL sessions in 2016, first braving the Academic Decathlon & Career Fair. From this, Kerri found a great deal of value in the things she learned from EXCEL sessions.

Kerri leapt from the short Decathlon to the 30-day Summer XL, studying Emergency Trauma Technology. Campus life must have appealed to her, as Kerri came back to us for the AVTEC Mini-bridging session. Knowing she was going to somehow pursue education after high school, Kerri came back once again for Postsecondary Prep. Another Decathlon in the spring of 2017 lead Kerri straight to MAPTS for the Capstone Project. Kerri’s paid internship put her into the nurturing hands of Brice Civil Constructors, working a very tough job as a driller’s assistant and continued to work seasonally for Brice.

Kerri put her education aside for a year to take care of her ailing grandmother. Sadly, her grandmother recently passed, but Kerri is planning to put her future back in her sights and will be returning to Anchorage soon to look for a job.

Alaska EXCEL achievements:

  • Academic Decathlon & Career Fair (2016, 2017)
  • Summer XL (2016)
  • EXCEL 12 (2016)
  • AVTEC Mini-bridging (2017)
  • Postsecondary Prep (2017)
  • MAPTS (2017)

Kattie Hoeldt

Kattie Hoeldt

From Aniak, Alaska, Kattie is currently an Alaska EXCEL Instructor, at just twenty-two years of age. Kattie was first introduced to EXCEL in 2009 as a student and continued to attend our activities until 2015 when she earned her high school diploma.

Kattie was able to pack seventeen camps or sessions into her student career. She says her favorite thing about being an EXCEL student was “all the exposure to new people, places, careers, education, cultures, and ideas.”

After graduating from high school, Kattie spent time as a Fishery Tech II at the George River weir. She also worked as a dental assistant for almost two years before coming to Alaska EXCEL.

Kattie began her work with us in 2015 as an intern. She then moved to Anchorage and subsequently transitioned to a facilitator position. She was recently promoted to Instructor and is now responsible for teaching lessons along with all the duties she held prior, including lesson preparation and evening and overnight chaperone. Kattie says her favorite part about her job at EXCEL is the continuous diversity in her work.

Kattie’s goal while at EXCEL is to continue her professional growth. Her overall goal is to be successful and happy in whatever she chooses to do in life.

Alaska EXCEL achievements:

  • Math Science Expedition (6)
  • Advanced Outdoor Leadership (2)
  • Camp Kick Ash (2)
  • Kuskokwim Sky Riders Ground School
  • Mathematics in Health Care
  • Medical Terminology
  • CTE Carpentry Camp
  • Heavy Equipment Operations Camp
  • EXCEL 12
  • MAPTS Capstone Program

Walter Lee

Walter Lee

Walter was first introduced to EXCEL Alaska in 2011 as a student in Aniak, Alaska, and continued to attend EXCEL activities until 2016 when he graduated from high school. In this time, Walter attended sixteen camps or sessions. He claims his favorite things about being an EXCEL student were travel opportunities and meeting so many new people.

Since his graduation, Walter has been utilizing all his education and connections he gained at EXCEL. In 2016, Walter secured a job in Anchorage working at an automotive store. Knowing Walter’s work ethic, we hired him as an Alaska EXCEL intern. Walter said he favorite part about working for EXCEL was “the ability to be a part of planning student activities.”

Walter was recently hired by Donlin Gold to work their Crooked Creek project and he moved back to Aniak. His long-term goal is to continue to explore his own options and opportunities while making sure he is constantly progressing in a positive direction to better himself.

Alaska EXCEL achievements:

  • Math/Science Expedition (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015)
  • CTE Carpentry Camp
  • Academic Decathlon & Career Fair (2015)
  • AVTEC Mini-bridging (2015)
  • Heavy Equipment Operations Camp (2015)
  • Credit Recovery (2015, 2016)
  • EXCEL MAPTS Capstone (2016)
  • George River Internship (2016)

Paul Tony

Paul Tony

Paul joined us as a student in 2017, starting in the EXCEL Carpentry / Welding Camp, finishing his NCCER Core Certification. Finding he liked working in the construction trades, he came to the 2017 session of our Heavy Equipment Operations Camp, at Northern Industrial Training (NIT) in Palmer. In the time spent with us in the HEO camp, Paul earned a variety of certifications, including NCCER Level 1 loader / excavator / dozer, fork lift safety, trenching and safety training, ATSSA Traffic Control Flagging, and First Aid/CPR & AED certification.

Deciding there was opportunity out there for him, Paul applied for and was accepted into the MAPTS / EXCEL Capstone program in Delta Junction. Paul excelled, and found he had an outstanding aptitude for the CAT 769D, even winning the speed and accuracy driving competition. (He even bested a couple of the instructors!) Paul went on to a paid internship with Brice Civil Construction, working on base at Fort Greely.

Since his experience with MAPTS and the subsequent internship, Paul has made the decision to further his education in construction and has completed the necessary steps to attend Alaska Job Corps.

Alaska EXCEL achievements:

  • Carpentry / Welding Camp (2017)
  • Heavy Equipment Operations Camp (2017)
  • EXCEL-MAPTS Capstone (2018)

Robert Chiklat

Robert Chiklat

We are very thankful for the Lower Kuskokwim School District for sending Robert to us in 2016. Robert came to us to attend the Heavy Equipment Operations camp, but continued on to come to the Academic Decathlon & Career Fair. And that’s not all! In the summer of 2017, Robert attended the MAPTS / EXCEL Capstone in Delta Junction, Alaska.

Following the Capstone and internship, Robert returned to Bethel and applied for a job helping a janitor in one of the schools. After just a week, the district offered him his own school with a position as facilities maintenance technician. Robert is still in charge of maintenance at the Gladys Jung Elementary School today, loving his job. He shows his pension for hard work, as he also does carpentry work on the side.

Robert credits hard work, opportunity, Alaska EXCEL, and having a mentor all as keys to his success.

Alaska EXCEL achievements:

  • Heavy Equipment Camp (2016)
  • Academic Decathlon & Career Fair (2017)
  • EXCEL-MAPTS Capstone (2017)