Editor’s Note: The author was one of 14 high school students from both public and private schools in the CNMI who joined their peers in other Pacific jurisdictions last May to visit Washington, D.C. under the Close Up Insular Areas Program. This column was provided as part of a press release.
Hafa Adai yan Tirow, reader. Hope all is well. I’m pretty sure some of you may be wondering, “What exactly is this Close-Up trip everyone’s been talking about?” or “Why is our children being sent miles and miles away from home?” Well, it’s a lucky day for you because I am here to share my experiences with you regarding this trip. This year, from May 3 to 17, I was given the opportunity of a lifetime to travel halfway across the world to participate in an extraordinary event. This trip took place in the beautiful commonwealth of Washington, D.C and the famous New York City. Here, we got to learn about the U.S government, how it works, and the different governments of various islands throughout the Pacific. In addition, we got to visit many historical sights such as the Capital Hill building, the Washington Monument, and even Lady Liberty! To be very honest, I knew little-to-nothing about our island’s government system and how it relates to the U.S. However, what I did know was that we, as the youth of the CNMI, have been facing challenges amongst the community that we feel needs to be addressed and that this was one way in which we can voice our concerns. As we went on through the weeks, my understanding of government and politics grew. It allowed us, the CNMI students along with other island states, to brainstorm on ways in which we can reach out to our government on some of the issues we should focus on. There are many topics in which we shared like climate change, cultural loss, pollution, and more. But there was one topic that we all agreed on and that was about the mental health of the youth. For a short description, we basically talked about the recent deaths or suicides of the youth throughout the islands and the many factors that play a big role in these deaths. After discussing the problem that we chose to present, we started coming up with solutions and what we can do to help. As we researched more into this topic, we have come to realize that there are many organizations and groups out there, informing and helping the community about mental health. After working on the project, we presented it to the other island groups of the Pacific and got to learn about the issues that they face and what they plan to do about it.
Overall, this trip was an amazing experience. Not only did I get to learn something new, but I also got to meet amazing people from around the world, with different backgrounds and ideas. It was definitely an opportunity that is worth sitting 13 hours on a plane for!