Micronesia Youth Activists get to work

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By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press
November 24, 2016
Pohnpei, FSM—When Vice President Yosiwo George’s office called yesterday to ask if we would be willing to interview high school students who had just met with him about climate change we jumped at the chance, even though the interview would happen after deadline. We were told that they were “something like climate change crusaders” having just returned from a training. What we found when they arrived was that they are much more than that. What they are is a trio of extremely bright high school seniors who want to mobilize young people in the FSM in a way that older people never will be able to do. They call themselves “Micronesia Youth Activists” and they’ve been busy. They intend to stay that way.
Conrad Jr. Timothy of Kosrae High School said that despite the fact that young people respect their elders as a matter of tradition they often don’t get active until they are mobilized by one of their own who speaks their own language. “Then they get really excited and start doing things like cleanup projects [and others]” he said.
Joshua Abello Pangelinan of Pohnpei’s Seventh Day Adventist School (SDA), Marissa Boylan of Pohnpei’s Calvary Christian Academy, and Conrad Jr. Timothy did not just recently return from a Climate Change training opportunity, although that was a part of what they experienced. They returned some time ago after they were involved over the summer break from school in the Junior Statesmen of America program at Princeton University in New Jersey. They said that the course was designed to teach them about American politics and the possibility of activism as a way to change their own communities for the better. They’ve brought those ideas home.
They were taught about issues of climate change only for the first week and then moved on to elective study courses the students were just as interested in.

Questioning during our interview showed that they were well versed on the issues of climate change right down to the percentage of scientists who agree that human activity has played a large role in climate change, who the biggest CO2 emitters are (they corrected me when I stumbled and said the US was the largest emitter when in fact they are behind China, the number one emitter), and what the tiny percentage of world-wide carbon emissions all of the combined Pacific Island nations who will suffer and are suffering the first effects of climate change, at least in terms of sea level rise is.
Timothy said that he chose the speech and political communication track as his elective. Pangelinan took an advanced placement course on US government. This was the second time for Boylan to be involved in the program. This time she took an intensive honors course in International Relations.
The opportunity was offered by the US Department of the Interior and involved an intensive application process, including two essays before selections were made. The course was offered by DOI but expenses, including airfare were paid by the participants and their families.

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The first of the two essays that was due during the selection process was on the topic of their own leadership involvement in their communities. The second essay was to discuss political issues each of the candidates was passionate about. For that second essay, Boylan wrote about her objections to affirmative action programs. She said that she considered those types of programs to be handouts and that achievements should be awarded on the basis of merit rather than race. Pangelinan wrote about his passion for bettering educational opportunities for all students. He wrote particularly about his feeling regarding the failings of the public school system in Pohnpei. Timothy wrote about the challenges of economic development in the community and argued that tourism is the one of the best answers to the problem in the FSM.
We asked the high school students challenging questions about why they believed what they believed. They were all ready to defend their beliefs and had great answers to our questions.
Unlike so many people in the FSM who attend trainings, seminars, workshops, and other opportunities overseas who return with happy memories but not much else, these three “Micronesia Youth Activists” are speaking out and putting their education into action. Timothy has delivered speeches at schools in Kosrae, exercising his communications training to mobilize the youth to stand up and have a voice on issues that concern them, as all issues do in one way or another.
Tomorrow, the students will be speaking at Pohnpei SDA. Yesterday they had a productive meeting with FSM Vice President Yosiwo George that impressed the Vice President so much he wanted them to tell their story to KPress.
KPress was equally impressed and have asked the Micronesia Youth Activists to keep us informed about their activities. They all promised that they would do so.