The Northern Marianas Technical Institute held yesterday what it called a “Kick Off Ceremony” to make official its partnerships with the Department of Corrections and the Northern Marianas Housing Corp. and to announce the opening of the trade school’s new financial aid office.
Guests at yesterday’s event included Gov. Ralph DLG Torres; Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios; members of NMTI’s board of trustees; House Speaker Edmund S. Villagomez and several other lawmakers; Northern Marianas College president Dr. Galvin Deleon Guerrero; and TanHoldings chief executive officer Jerry Tan.
The event also featured special messages from members of the CNMI Youth Congress: floor leader YuriHana Deleon Guerrero Sasamoto and senator Easton Joel Cabrera Dela Cruz gave remarks in person, while pre-recorded remarks from speaker Cielo Citlalli Gutierrez Long and legislative secretary Abriette Patience T. Manglona were played at the event.
As part of event proceedings, NMTI interim chief executive officer Jodina Attao and NMTI’s board of trustees signed agreements with the Department of Corrections and NMHC, launching an NMTI-DOC pilot program for inmates, and a scholarship fund for NMTI’s low- to moderate-income students who are taking construction-related classes.
Last week, Attao said the pilot program for inmates was made possible through months of working closely with Corrections Commissioner Wally Villagomez, Sgt. Jeff Quitugua, and DOC legal counsel Leslie Healer. As part of the program, inmates will be able to take pre-requisite trades courses through NMTI. Upon completion of these courses, the inmates will be asked to complete a survey to choose a new specialized course for them to complete next.
The scholarship program, which is made possible through a $1,160,000 Community Development Block Grant that NMTI applied for through NMHC, will be used to cover the education costs of 100 NMTI students who are or will be pursuing a construction-related trade from 2021 onward.
In interviews after the event, Torres and Villagomez both lauded NMTI for what it was able to accomplish in the past six months in the midst of the school’s transition into a government institution in 2019 and its closure last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I want to congratulate CEO Attao, the board, the instructors, and especially the students. I know that they’ve been through a lot on this transition, and I’m happy they’re doing great. We’re giving them the resources that they need, [and] I look forward to their success,” said Torres.
“Any time there’s a kickoff for something that provides opportunities for our youth, it’s always a good thing. NMTI has a history of being an upstart, and there were issues [in the past but] it’s good to see that this opportunity is still ongoing,” said Villagomez.
Also part of yesterday’s proceedings, a ribbon-cutting to announce the opening of NMTI’s new financial aid office. For Villagomez, he said that finances have proved to be a struggle for many in the CNMI who hope to further their education, and is happy to see that NMTI has now opened an office to address this barrier to higher learning.
“The ribbon-cutting for their financial aid office is a good thing, [because] that’s one of the struggles that students and individuals in our community face when it comes to furthering their education or expanding their knowledge. …I wish NMTI and their partners the best of luck, because their success is the success of the community,” Villagomez added.