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By Moneth G. Deposa

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, April 25) - The 4th Micronesian Youth Services Network Conference has gathered some 150 young men and women from the CNMI, Guam, Palau, the Marshall Islands, Chuuk and Kosrae.

The theme for the three-day conference, which is being held at the Hyatt Regency, is "Catch the Wave to Progressive Youth Services: Believe, Integrate, Achieve."

Yesterday, the conference discussed the issue of lack of resources and funding for youth programs.

The Juvenile Justice Task Force said this has been the biggest factor hampering the effective implementation of programs and activities intended for youth welfare.

Doreen Tudela, the interim vice president and treasurer of the Micronesian Youth Services Network, said it is their aim to showcase collaboration and networking among different island entities in the region.

"We share similar issues affecting our youth and it’s high time that rather than work as separate entities, we work together to resolve these common concerns," she said.

Network president Patrick V. Diaz, said the conference serves two purposes -- to present a forum that encourages discussions among youth service providers about current social issues, and to provide resources and promote networking among youth services in the Pacific region.

"We seek to revive and strengthen this partnership so that together, we can impact policies and increase our resources as we deal with issues affecting our children’s lives," he said.

For Derick Hills, vice speaker of the 25th Guam Youth Congress, this year’s gathering also reflects the economic situation of the Pacific islands.

"We are all in the same shoes in terms of the economic and financial situation of our governments and so we need to work collaboratively to address these concerns," he said.

Some 40 delegates from Guam are attending the conference.

Hills commended the speakers at the conference who emphasized that adults do not have the answers to all problems all the time. "Youths too have their own answers to their issues," Hill said.

The Guam-based Sanctuary Inc., a non-profit group that assists individuals and families, presented a "Reflections of Our Youth" photo exhibit in the Hyatt Regency lobby, as well as videos and short films that aim to increase awareness about such issues as safe sex and drug abuse.

The conference was sponsored by the Juvenile Justice Task Force in collaboration with the Youth Advisory Council of the Criminal Justice Planning Agency.

Among the keynote speakers at the conference are former Chuuk Governor Ansito Walter, CNMI Superior Court Presiding Judge Robert Naraja, Mary Lou Barela of Hawaii, Dan Fitzgerald of Deloitte & Touche, and CNMI 8th Youth Congress Speaker Alvie Sanchez.

April 26, 2006

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