The Northern Marianas College’s Project PROA Center finally opened yesterday with the hopes of further promoting and nurturing the indigenous culture to the youth, especially those of Northern Mariana Descent. The ribbon cutting ceremony was held yesterday at the NMC campus.
Project PROA or Promote Retention Opportunities Advancement is intended to help promote the Chamorro and Carolinian culture to indigenous students that come from low-income families or those who have disabilities who need academic support.
Program director Maria Hofschneider Aguon said Project PROA would provide tutoring, advising, mentoring, and outreach, academic, and cultural activities to the students in the 11th and 12th grades, and first year for college.
Project PROA is a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Education worth $269,000 and Aguon said that their goal is to sustain the program in the next five years. “We received the grant in October 2015 but because of Typhoon Soudelor, we were behind in implementing it.”
“Now we’re kicking it off. Today is a special day for NMC since the center would serve indigenous students, Chamorro and Carolinian. Our goal is to sustain the program that it continues to grow. The whole thing of the grant is to be able to sustain it in the future,” she added.
The program would pay for the Chamorro and Carolinian classes of first year college students, while the 11th and 12th graders will get academic support, mentoring, and tutoring as well as taking part in various outreach, academic, and cultural activities.
“So that they [indigenous students] can grow and develop their cultural heritage. The project is also in collaboration with the CNMI Public School System and the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs,” said Aguon.
“The DCCA has been a big part of the program with the support of Jack Sablan and Gloriana Teuira, where they helped in the showcase of artifacts of the Chamorro and Carolinian cultures,” she added.
Aguon said the center is also open to students who are from other nationalities. “But the priority is Chamorro and Carolinian students, but we also wanted to embrace the cultures of the other students because we want them to know who we are.”
“The cultural activities will be a part for them to learn our culture. [Exchange students] could come at the center and learn about the indigenous culture. So when people ask who are the Chamorros and Carolinians, we can say ‘this is who we are and we celebrate our culture.’”
Rep. Felicidad T. Ogumoro (R-Saipan) said that the Legislature is also doing its part in promoting the indigenous culture by recently passing House Bill 19-127, which aims to establish the Northern Marianas Cultural Center.
“The center will undertake programs and projects that will protect, preserve, promote, and enhance the indigenous Chamorro and Carolinian cultures, heritage, and traditions for the interest and benefit of persons of Northern Marianas Descent,” said Ogumoro.
“It will help create jobs and contribute to the growth of the Commonwealth’s economy. The NMCC will encourage the practice of our traditional ways of life by showcasing and promoting the unique culture, heritage, and tradition of our Chamorro and Carolinian people of the CNMI.”
The bill, which would create NMCC and serve as a cultural repository of historic and artistic materials, is now in the Senate awaiting their approval. (Jon Perez)