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By Emmanuel T. Erediano

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, May 14) - Members of the Head Start anniversary steering committee in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) say they will try their best to convince Senator Daniel Akaka to be here for the program’s 40th anniversary commemoration on July 28.

Akaka, D-Ha, played a major role in saving Head Start in the CNMI, according to former Senator Herman R. Guerrero, who headed the local community group that launched the program here in 1967.

Guerrero said Akaka will be invited to the CNMI Head Start anniversary celebration.

He recalled that there was a move to remove Head Start from Pacific jurisdictions as a result of a cut in the federal budget.

Guerrero said he was sent to Washington, D.C. to lobby for Head Start in Micronesia. He met Akaka who was then in charge of the Head Start program in Hawai΄i.

According to Guerrero, he and Akaka teamed up to lobby for the continued funding of Head Start in Hawaii and Micronesia.

Guerrero said he later told Akaka in jest, "You will be in Congress one day."

Akaka, who served in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during World War II and was stationed on Saipan and Tinian, was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1976 and won seven consecutive elections.

In 1990, he was appointed to the U.S. Senate to replace Senator Spark Matsunaga, D-Ha, who died in April of that year.

In November 1990, he was elected to complete Matsunaga’s unexpired term.

Akaka was re-elected in 1994, 2000 and 2006.

Like most government agencies and programs, Head Start in the CNMI is facing financial challenges.

It now accommodates over 500 children from low-income families and has asked federal authorities to allow for a reduction of the number of students it has from 579 to 462.

Head Start alumni and their community partners are now lobbying the Legislature to help finance the program, which although federally funded, also requires local matching monies.

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