About 60 high school students from public and private institutions took part yesterday in the kickoff ceremony for the annual Close Up Youth Summit, where participants articulated their willingness to take part in identifying solutions to the most pressing issues on island.
Top among their concerns are immigration issues in the CNMI, the alarming state of the healthcare system, and challenges facing the education sector.
For 16-year-old Marianas High School student Edward Hofschneider, young citizens have a social responsibility to be involved in issues affecting them and their families. He said the alarming state of the healthcare system and the lack of support for education are among the important things that each and every young citizen must think about.
During breakout sessions, each participating groups were given an opportunity to freely identify all issues that they feel need attention or change.
Board of Education chair Marylou Ada, herself a first-time attendee to the summit, said she was pleased to see that youths are aware of many issues on the island. Their knowledge about their surroundings, she said, are mostly acquired through reading and watching current events. Ada believes the summit gives youths the opportunity not only to voice but to act on problems by making policy recommendations.
Among the issues that Ada wants the youths to pay attention to is the preservation of the island culture, including preservation of land. Ada said that students must be made aware of the issue of Article 12 because it involves the future of the CNMI.
Education Commissioner Rita A. Sablan, Ed.D, said the summit will help students make decisions when they are ready. She hopes that, among all the issues presented, students will agree on the importance of education as it drives the economy.
Yesterday's summit was held at Saipan World Resort in Susupe. An agenda of recommendations from the students is expected at the end of the three-day summit.