Eighteen members of the Pacific Century Fellows Class of 2019 were presented their graduation plaques last Feb. 27 at the Hibiscus Hall of the Fiesta Resort & Spa in Garapan.
The Pacific Century Fellows-Marianas Chapter is a program established by the Tan Siu Lin Foundation through TanHoldings, with the purpose of developing young leaders in the community. Each PCF participant is given an opportunity to study in a field they want to pursue, such as politics, tourism, etc. so that they can be mentored by professionals in their chosen field. After nine months in the PCF program, the participants will then have achieved skills to incorporate in their lives and their jobs.
Speaking at the graduation ceremony, PCF-Marianas Chapter president Jerry Tan said that, as a resident of the CNMI, he sees a lot of potential opportunities that the CNMI has. “At the end of the day, it is really about the people who are going to make things happen,” he added.
Tan noted that local leaders have to be careful with what they plan for the Commonwealth, because the islands don’t have unlimited resources and it is very important that the people of the CNMI come together and talk about what they want the future of the Commonwealth to be like. And, together with the past PCF Fellows, it’s possible for the CNMI to reach its full potential and beyond, he added.
“As long as we can encourage everyone to stay involved, stay engaged, and participate in what’s going on…the Commonwealth can move forward,” Tan added.
The 18 new PCF alumni are Northern Marianas College Cooperative Research Extension & Educational Services extension aide Lorenza Aldan; Precinct 4 Rep. Sheila Babauta (Ind-Saipan); press secretary Kevin Bautista; NMC director of Enrollment Services Manny Castro; former CNMI Public School System director of finance Christopher Ching; Koblerville Elementary School teacher Bonny Cruz; Kanoa Resort guest relations manager Ricardo Cruz Jr.; Docomo Pacific CNMI marketing coordinator Clinton Dela Cruz; NMC early intervention counselor Kaelani Demapan; Xerox Corp. executive Nola Hix; Tinian Mayor’s Office coordinating officer Alexis Hofschneider; Shirley’s Coffee Shop operations manager Noelle Macario; Commonwealth Health Care Corp.’s Non-Communicable Disease Bureau acting administrator Amber-Lynn Mendiola; KES teacher Le’ah Murphy; CHCC dialysis unit social worker Chrislaine Pangelinan; Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Petersburg; Commonwealth Casino Commission financial auditor Michael Sheu; and Kagman High School principal Leila Staffler.
In an interview before her graduation, Babauta said that joining the PCF gave her a different perspective of the issues facing the Commonwealth—studying and seeing different events and learning from them.
“It was such a great experience! This program is also a great way to expand your network, meet a lot of people and just have great exposure and ideas. This program also helped prepared myself to becoming an Obama leader!” she added. Babauta, together with Samantha Birmingham-Babauta, were recently selected to participate in the first annual inaugural cohort for the Obama Foundation Leaders: Asia-Pacific program in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from Dec. 10, 2019 to Dec. 14, 2019.
One of the guest speakers in last Thursday’s graduation was Maisie B. Tenorio, who has helped many women, men, and children through her advocacy efforts and in her role as a founding member of the Northern Marianas Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. She quoted an ancient Iroquois philosophy that, in deliberations, one must consider the impact of decisions on the next seven generations. Tenorio gave a motivational speech about how the graduates of PCF have the potential to change the future of the CNMI.
“Let’s not wait for the next generation to make every single inch of the CNMI beautiful and glorious,” Tenorio said. “Let’s light their [future generations’] way if we best intentionally and meaningfully in our children and they will experience triumph born from our trauma.”
Also present was PCF founder and Honolulu former mayor Mufi Hannemann who started the PCF program in Hawaii in 1997; the PCF Marianas Chapter started back in 2014.
So far, there have been a total of seven classes of CNMI Fellows.
Hannemann said to the graduates, “You are living proof that the answers can come right from this place [CNMI] and I’m happy to be a part of you.”
According to one of the graduates, Staffler, she wants to use what she has learned to help her students, and everyone else, to engage more in different civic activities. (With Krizel Tuazon)