After a protracted search for new members, the Northern Marianas Protective and Advocacy Systems Inc.’s executive committee concluded its search for new members representing the island of Saipan. Selection of members for the islands of Rota and Tinian is still forthcoming.
Each of the four new members comes with direct, personal experience with issues surrounding the issues and the needs of individuals with disabilities.
Joan Taitano: Joan Taitano is no stranger to NMPASI as she has served on NMPASI’s PAIMI Advisory Council since 2008. Having been diagnosed with bipolar disorder since 1998, she says that she was, “fortunate enough that she found great community support and has been able to overcome (her) behavioral health issues.” She credits various agencies including CHC, CGC, TLC, SSS, OVR and NMPASI for helping her to successfully manage her behavioral health issues and for helping to educate her about her mental illness. “After years of seclusion, I was hired [with OVR assistance] by the Torres Brothers, LLC…because of their faith and trust in me, I had enough courage to go back to school and get a paralegal degree.” She received her associates of arts degree in paralegal studies and graduated cum laude in July 2014. Currently, she is six classes shy of obtaining a bachelor of science degree. She believes that recovery is possible through education, empowerment, and community support.
John Demapan: According to the Council on Developmental Disabilities director Pam Sablan, “John is a remarkable young man and self-advocate. He cares deeply about disability issues and the rights of individuals with disabilities to have equal opportunities to work, go to college and to have the choice to make their own decisions regarding their lives.” He served on the CDD for two terms wherein he was named vice chairperson and during which he was able to be a co-presenter at the Allies in Self-Advocacy Summit regarding state themes in self-advocacy in the Commonwealth. At present, Demapan works as a transit information specialist for the Commonwealth Office of Transit Authority and was previously a police dispatcher for the Department of Public Safety. He graduated from Saipan Southern High School in June 2006.
Charlie Rivera: In his own words, Rivera says, “I was a victim of polio at 1 year old which affected my lower extremity. However, it did not affect my confidence and strong determination to pursue higher education…With loving support from my family, I have learned to be independent and to confidently face every challenge that comes my way.” He currently works as a graphic artist with Tropical Instant Press, Inc. (an affiliate of Joeten Enterprises). He expects to be a productive contributor to NMPASI and wants to use his own experience to “share and be able to encourage people with disabilities.” He graduated from Ateneo de Naga University in the Philippines in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in Development Communications and holds a certificate in drafting technology through the Naga College Foundation.
Emet Fitial: Also a self- advocate, Fitial serves as the chairman of the State Independent Living Council, secretary for the State Rehabilitation Council, and volunteers at the Center for Living Independently. Through his volunteer work, he has been able to present on the role of independent living centers and other issues relating to the needs of people with disabilities on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota. He graduated from Marianas High School in 1996.
A veteran member of the NMPASI board said: “This transition of members should be seen as an opportunity to bring fresh new ideas to the board and to develop a new batch of aggressive advocates on behalf of our community of people with disabilities. And so, the expectation, at a minimum, is that these new members contribute and do as much as they can in pursuit of our mission, ‘To protect the civil, legal and human rights of people with disabilities.’” (PR)