18 Pacific Century Fellows accomplish Hawaii mission


It was mission accomplished for the 18 Pacific Century Fellows Marianas Chapter as they met with the respected leaders in the tourism, banking, military, and education sectors in Hawaii and learned a thing or two from them.

“The class trip to Hawaii was eye-opening, to say the least. We bore witness to a community in the midst of a cultural revival, met with leaders of local, federal, and state government, received a briefing from the U.S. military’s Pacific Command, and broke bread with leaders of the private sector,” said Brad Ruszala, one of the members of the Class of 2016 that had a four-day visit in Hawaii last month.

Ruszala and his 14 other fellows and three other graduates of Class of 2014 met with Bank of Hawaii chair and CEO Peter Ho and First Hawaiian Bank executive vice president Mitchell Nishimoto. The visitors also talked to Hawaii Visitor Convention Bureau senior vice president and chief marketing officer Jay Talwar, Embassy Suites Waikiki general manager Simeon Miranda, Sand Island senior vice president Vic Angoco, Dr. Trisha Watson of Honua Consulting, and Waikiki Improvement Association executive director Rick Egged.

“Mr. Egged briefed us on the development of Waikiki—the past, present, and upcoming developments that are part of a master plan, which not only benefits Waikiki, but the entire state and the tourism industry of Hawaii. These kinds of foresight, vision, and planning are what the CNMI needs to improve our tourism industry and the quality of lives of our residents,” said Ruselle Zapanta, another member of Class of 2016.

The group also made stops at the Pacific Area Command Center in Camp Smith to meet deputy commander of U.S. Pacific Command and Lt. Gen. Anthony Crutchfield; University of Hawaii president David Lassner; and at the Waipahu High School.

Three fellows considered the visit at the high school in Oʻahu and discussion with principal Keith Hayashi as highlights of their trip.

“What sets this high school apart from typical secondary institutions is its focus on helping students identify their passions and provide them the support and opportunities to chase their dreams,” said Janice Castro, who is grants program manager at the Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality.

“The school encourages its students to enroll in one of six career pathways or 11 career academies. During our brief visit with the Academy of Natural Resources, the school had appointed two of its ambassadors from this academy to show us some of the projects they work on, which included aquaculture, farming, and forestry to name a few,” Castro said.

Castro also cited the school’s early college program, which she herself experienced.

“As a product of a running start program, I commend this high school for not only giving their students the ability to begin their postsecondary studies early, but shouldering these costs (with conditions) as well. That was the struggle my peers and I had while we were in a running start program—paying for tuition and books. Since we were still high school students, we were not able to avail of any scholarships or federal assistance yet,” Castro said.

Waipahu High School’ success could inspire the CNMI, said Carline Sablan.

“We were told that Waipahu was once a troubled high school before making a big turnaround. I think if you give students a chance to decide on what they want do, they would enjoy the activity more and be more engaged,” Sablan said. “Hopefully, the CNMI can learn and have more programs similar to Waipahu’s to educate our youth and get them thinking of their careers and give them a head start so that they can give back to the community.”

Ruszala also became an instant fan of Waipahu High School, which reminds him of a school in the CNMI.

“They have an excellent academy program that is run by a passionate team of educators. What’s happening in Waipahu parallels the quality programs undertaken by similarly passionate educators in our local institutions, specifically Kagman High School. After hearing about the academy program and what it took to make it successful, I knew my purpose for making this trip was to make the connection between the leaders of the CNMI and Hawaii campuses,” said Ruszala, who is Pacific Islands Club’s sports, entertainment, and activities director.

The Hawaii trip was the last for the Class of 2016 and was made possible through the initiative of Pacific Century Fellows of Hawaii founder Mufi Hannemann and support of Tan Siu Lin Foundation, TanHoldings, and Bank of Hawaii. The class, which had its first off-island trip last May in Guam, will have its graduation ceremony in January next year after participating in the 10-month program of the Pacific Century Fellows Marianas Chapter.

The Jerry Tan-chaired Pacific Century Fellows Marianas Chapter is a leadership development program modeled after the Pacific Century Fellows of Hawaii and aims to provide leadership learning opportunities and experiences for the people in the CNMI.

The Class of 2016 will be the third batch to complete the program. Other members of the class are Maryann Borja-Arriola, Catherine Attao-Toves, Joe Ayuyu Jr., Charles Brasington, Alexis Shawnee Cabrera, Derek Gersonde, Brady Hammond, Charles Reyes Jr., Jordan Sundell, Beau Tomokane, and Laarni Zapanta.

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