The 14th Cycle of the CNMI’s Fire Academy begat the first female valedictorian in CNMI history in Rufina Fujihira Sablan.
Sablan, a former Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services dispatcher, was named the CNMI’s first ever female valedictorian last Friday during the 14th Cycle’s graduation ceremony at Kensington Hotel Saipan.
Being named valedictorian in an academy and profession that has been dominated by males since its inception was the most honorable part, according to Sablan.
“I really doubted myself but I pushed and here I am today, the valedictorian of the 14th cycle of the academy, the first female valedictorian. Before I joined the academy, I was actually a fire dispatcher. I was in the department already but I wanted to climb the ladder and better myself and better my education and prove that I can do what the men can do, that females can do what men can do. It doesn’t matter if we’re perceived to be weaker, that we are smaller; we can do what men can do and that’s exactly what I did,” she said.
In entering the academy, Sablan was most worried about the physical phase because she thought she wouldn’t be able to pass the physical requirement needed to become a firefighter.
“In the beginning of the academy, I really thought that I wouldn’t surpass the physical requirement that was needed but I pushed myself. Though there were days when I wanted to quit, I just kept thinking that I’m doing it for my family, I’m doing it to make everyone proud, and I really want to help the community. I just kept thinking ‘I want to be a firefighter so I can be there to help anyone through the tough times,’” Sablan said.
Sablan said when she found out she was the valedictorian, she was beyond happy and surprised at the same time. “I was so surprised. I really believed there were people smarter than me who were doing much better than me, but in the end, I got it and I am very happy. But I want to continue learning so that [I can] be there for the community,” she said.
When asked what she will carry with her into her new journey as a firefighter, Sablan said it would have to be being there for one another.
“The lesson I will carry with me is the importance of building the bond with everyone you meet and having each other’s backs. Even when we’re suffering, we can do anything as long as we have each other as back up,” she said.
Following Sablan and gaining the title of salutatorian was Juan Quitugua Jr. In addition, other awardees include Jojit Roque who took home the leadership award, and Yoshi Ray Mafnas who was named most physically fit.
According to DFEMS Commissioner Dennis Mendiola, he is beyond proud of this year’s cadets. Originally starting with 52, 32 individuals made it to the finish line and he believes the ones who stuck it through to the end is the best of the best.
Other members of the graduating class include: Nelton Skerei, Colby Ogo, William Cing, Keoni Kaipat, Audrein Cruz, Marnecia Hope Hocog, Juan S. Ada II, Henry Lizama Jr., Sylvestre Palacios, Johmar Untalan, Jack Rabago, Joseph Sablan, Sidney Camacho, Victor Igitol, Mariano Junior Aguon, Hiram Lee Castro, Leon Luis Laniyo, Odie Joe Taitano, Robert Kelly Ulloa Jr., Joseph Cing, Drey Apatang, Francisco Mizutani Jr., Dwayne Blas, Felis Onez Atalig, Andrew Kim, Jiovanni Olopai, and Anthony Repeki.