Northern Marianas College Launches Federally Funded Program To Support Indigenous Students

Targets students in 11th and 12th grades in high school as well as those in the first year of college for tutoring, mentoring, and other services

By Junhan B. Todiño

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, August 23, 2016) – Northern Marianas College on Monday launched a federally funded program that aims to help Chamorro and Carolinian students make the transition into college.

Government officials led by acting Gov. Victor Hocog lauded the college for successfully getting a grant to implement the Project for the Promotional and Retention of Opportunities for Advancement or Project PROA.

In her remarks, Rep. Felicidad T. Ogumoro said the project is a recognition of the importance of addressing the needs of  underserved indigenous students.

“It is imperative now more than ever that we all do our part to continue serving our indigenous peoples across all sectors of the CNMI, whether in education, business, cultural preservation, or public service,” she said.

She noted the passage in the House of House Bill 189-127 which will establish the first ever Northern Marianas Cultural Center to undertake programs and projects that will protect, preserve, promote and enhance indigenous Chamorro and Carolinian cultures, heritage and traditions in the interest and for the benefit of persons of Northern Marianas descent.

The center, she added, will encourage the practice of  traditional ways of life by showcasing and promoting the unique culture, heritage and tradition of the Chamorro and Carolinian people of the Northern Marianas.

“It will serve as a cultural repository of historic and artistic materials,” she said, adding that the bill is now in the Senate.

Ogumoro said another bill will require the teaching of Chamorro and Carolinian in all public schools, from elementary through high school, as a prerequisite to graduating from  public high schools.

As author of a constitutional amendment that made NMC autonomous with guaranteed funding, she said the collage has always had a special place in her heart.

“I will continue fighting for and working to support initiatives that will improve educational services and outcomes for all students in our islands, with the recognition that in order to serve all, we must place special emphasis on our indigenous people,” she said.

NMC interim president David Attao said Project PROA will help Chamorro and Carolinian students  excel in their endeavors.

“This is a very important program to preserve our culture, our community, our language, but more importantly to see and to ensure our people become successful,” he added.

Project PROA Director Maria H. Aguon said their target students are those in 11th and 12th grades in high school as well as those in the first year of college.

Qualified students can avail themselves of different services at the PROA Center located at NMC Building I, including tutoring, advising, mentoring, outreach activities, academic and cultural activities.

In an interview, Aguon said the program was made possible by a five-year federal grant amounting to $1.2 million. NMC will receive $269,023 every year for five years

In 2014, Aguon said NMC became an Asian American Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution or AANAPISI which qualified the college to apply for a grant that helps Asian American and Pacific Islander students with opportunities to complete college on time.

It was in Oct. 2015 that NMC received its first AANAPISI grant.

Department of Community and Cultural Affairs Secretary Robert Hunter, in a separate interview, said the project will “certainly strengthen the foundation of  Chamorro and Carolinian cultures,” adding that DCCA will continue to collaborate with various agencies to sustain and assist the program.

Fr. James Balajadia blessed  the PROA Center during the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday.

Also attending the ceremony were Saipan Mayor David M. Apatang, Sen. Jude Hofschneider, Sen. Steve Mesngon, Rep. Angel Demapan, Rep. Joseph Leepan Guerrero, Rep. Lorenzo Deleon Guerrero, Rep. Blas Jonathan Attao, Rep. Roman Benavente, Saipan and Northern Islands Municipal Council Chairwoman Antonia Tudela and council vice chair Alice Igitol.

Floyd Masga served as the master of ceremonies for the program which was held in the newly repaired collage cafeteria that was also opened on Monday..

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