150 high school students participate in Youth Takeover Day

150 high school students participated in the first CNMI Youth Takeover Day, which provided an opportunity for the youth to explore careers in their potential field of interest.

Kaelani Demapan, chair of the 2017 CNMI Youth Takeover Day Subcommittee Planning Committee, said there were 18 participants from Da’ok Academy High School; 20 from Grace Christian Academy; 12 from Kagman High School; one from Marianas Baptist Academy; 71 from Marianas High School; 21 from Mount Carmel High School, and seven from Saipan Southern High School.

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From 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Youth Takeover Day, the students assumed the role of mandate holders, political decision-makers and professionals.

Eighty-six mentors from government and private agencies and non-profit organizations mentored the students.


Saipan High School students Tiava To’omata and Johnson Atalig were mentored by Rodylyn Bacani, Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. inpatient pharmacy manager.

“In the application process, we had to choose five different areas that we are interested in. I chose the medical field, most specifically, pharmaceuticals,” To’omata said.

“When you hear ‘pharmacy’ you think that people are just handing out pills. But it is a lot more than that and I think people should be more informed on what goes on,” she added.

Atalig learned that working at the inpatient pharmacy requires accuracy. “You have to make sure that all the patients have the right medication and the right dosage.”

Four other students were assigned to CHCC’s physical therapy department.

“I’m interested in physical movement — muscles and tissues working together,” said Sejin Kim, a student from Grace Christian Academy.

Marianas High School student Ian Cataluna toured the physical therapy, radiology and other hospital departments.

“I actually wanted to go to the surgical unit but Saipan lacks surgeons. I want to be a surgeon. I want to work as a surgeon here and help the people. Most people here don’t have access to this certain type of healthcare and I want to provide it for those in need,” Cataluna said.

Kianna Rife, another MHS student, chose physical therapy because she said she wants to learn how people can regain mobility. She is also thinking about pursuing physical therapy as a career.

Nazario Omar P. Ajoste, hospital administrative assistant, brought the students to the hospital’s various departments where they also met “the people working behind the scenes.”

He added, “Without these personnel’s help, there won’t be a successful teamwork. In healthcare, you need to know every aspect of the hospital and understand the services being offered.”

Ajoste is hopeful that the students would come back one day as doctors or nurses. “They are very knowledgeable and they have so many questions. They are really interested in the medical field.”

At the Arts Council

MHS student Jefferson Cunanan was an intern at the Arts Council for a day, and worked with acting director Fay McMahon, who advised him to pursue his interest in the arts.

“We are so pleased to have him,” she said. “What we wish for him to know is that we are here, the Arts Council and the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs, to support and to promote young and local artists like him.”

Cunanan said he wants to help promote the CNMI’s unique culture and art scene. For a day, he performed clerical work and helped design and print flyers for the Arts Council’s upcoming programs.

On Capital Hill

At the legislative building, the students were welcomed by Vice Speaker Janet Maratita, Reps. Ivan Blanco, Edwin Propst, Vinnie Sablan, Frank Aguon, Alice Igitol, Edwin Aldan and other lawmakers.

Marianas High School students Esther Huh and Nadyne Achas “took over” Propst’s office while Kagman High School student Aundrea Aldan and MHS student Andrew Omelau took over Blanco’s.

Also among the participating students were Youth Congress Vice Speaker Christian Merante of Saipan Southern High School and Jenni L. Zhang of MHS.

They learned the functions and duties of a lawmaker and also toured the various offices of the legislative building.

Afterward, they were escorted by Propst to the governor’s office where they were welcomed by acting Gov. Arnold Palacios, the Senate president.

Gov. Ralph Torres is in Washington, D.C. while Lt. Gov. Victor Hocog is escorting his wife who is on a medical referral trip to the Philippines.

Palacios explained to the students the duties and functions of the Senate president and the governor.

He advised the students to study well so they can have a rewarding career in the future. He said they should also think of what they can do for the community.

“I encourage you to be engaged in the issues, to be aware of what’s going on in your community. Don’t get frustrated. As a youth, you can do a lot of things for the community. But be mindful and respectful of other people’s opinions, especially those who don’t share the same opinions as yours,” Palacios said.

MHS student Amea Reyes and Grace Christian Academy Tae Yong Kim “took over” as Department of Commerce secretary while Nico Lu and Mozelle Campo took over as Commonwealth Ports Authority deputy executive director and human resources specialist, respectively.

The two joined CPA Deputy Executive Director Ed Mendiola who met with the members of the House Committee on Commerce and Tourism to discuss pending legislation. (See story on page 5)

Bright students

In an interview, Propst said “Takeover Day” is a very important program for the students so they learn what their government officials do on a daily basis.

“It gives them a glimpse of what all these positions entail on a daily basis and what we are grateful for in exchange. Today’s youth are very outspoken and very informed. They asked us tough questions and I like the fact that they are holding us accountable and ensuring that we have to do our best to help them and their school and their parents. I do want to say that there’s a lot of criticism about our schools, but having these exchanges with the students and learning how bright they are, it really shows that they are progressive and the Public School System, the education commissioner, the school principals, the teachers — they are all doing a fantastic job, no doubt about it.”

The students said “Takeover Day” was a great learning experience for them.

Nico Lu said he learned a lot from the CPA staff. “Although at first I felt nervous, being the deputy executive director of CPA, but so far so good, and I’m hoping to be better before the end of the day,” Lu said.

Mozelle Campo said that CPA not only deals with ports and finances, but also with legislative and tourism matters.

Tae Yong Kim said it was “pretty cool to watch these people talk about important things. I learned a lot, and now I know that the job of a Commerce secretary is huge. It involves banking, insurance and everything.”

Amea Reyes, a senior student at MHS, said: “It’s a great opportunity for the youth to learn various things from the government, like I didn’t know that the Commerce does many things and huge things like being in charge of banking, insurance, taxis. I didn’t expect that and it was kind of an eye-opener for me.”

The students who “took over” as legislators said they feel for the lawmakers as they know now that their job is not easy.

“Basically knowing that every legislative seat represents a lot of people, and how a lawmaker must be the voice for the people they represent — that’s tough,” Andrew Omelau said. “We also learned that they argue or debate each other, but these are healthy arguments and that they have to respect their differences in opinions.”

Jenni L. Zhang said it was a great feeling to visit the lawmakers, adding that she found their job interesting. “I want to be like them someday,” she added.

Diverse opinions

John Gabriel Flora and Cathrine Roque, both of MHS, took over the position of Press Secretary Kevin Bautista.

Flora said in the meetings he attended with government officials, leaders in government and the private sector tackled issues that involved the well-being of the people of the CNMI.

“In the meetings today, we exchanged diverse opinions and emotions about key issues. Meeting with the acting governor, we had an opportunity to talk candidly about education and students. I felt as if I was a part of the job, mostly because the people were welcoming and treated us as if we were hired,” Flora said.

Roque said the day was exciting, informative, and rewarding. “We got a chance to sit in on the governor’s Strategic Economic Development Council. Some of the issues addressed were about the airport, building permits, and the CW issue. To me, the CW issue was one of the most important because it was something that the government and business leaders kept going back to. It is sensitive because it when it comes down to it, it is an economic and humanitarian issue, in which families and lives are affected. We also talked about education with the acting governor. As a student, this was something that I truly enjoyed talking about because I know that my concerns were heard. This day was an amazing experience, and it definitely felt like the youth was taking over for the day,” Roque said.

In a statement, Special Assistant for Youth Affairs Shelane Borja said it is vital for the students to get real-life opportunities to assist in their growth and development.

“I want to thank the Youth Takeover Day Committee for spending tremendous time working during and after working hours to make this event as successful as possible. Without the help of our key subcommittee partners (NMC, PSS, private schools, and MANGO), a lot of the tedious work could not have been done. This is the first year the governor has proclaimed Youth Takeover Day, to give private and public school students a real-life opportunity to experience being in a professional setting, tailored to their interests. We definitely plan to make this an annual event for our youth. Our youth is our most important resource and our goal is to assist in providing them the tools and resources they need to be successful,” Borja said.

The CNMI Youth Takeover Day Planning Committee members:

Chair Kaelani Demapan, Northern Marianas College

Co-Chair Maxine Laszlo, Marianas Alliance of Non-Governmental Organizations

Shelane Borja, Office of Youth Affairs under the Office of the Governor

Melanie Sablan, Public School System

Lorenza Aldan, Northern Marianas College

Source: Marianas Variety :

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