From October 23 to 27, students from across CNMI gathered to participate in the 2022 Close-Up Youth Summit at Saipan World Resort. The Close Up Youth Summit is an opportunity for students to research local issues and brainstorm solutions affecting our community. They also had the opportunity to meet and discuss their thoughts with professionals and legislators who work daily to tackle the same issues.
During the first day of the summit, the students expressed the different issues that they considered important and shared them among themselves. They also participated in ice-breaking activities which many enjoyed.
“The program instructors made us do ice-breaking activities and I loved it! Games such as rock-paper-scissors and a snap version of Mafia eased the tension in the room. People were crowding each other, shouting, screaming and clapping. It was fun to see the students having fun with each other despite being from different schools and islands,” says Amira De Guzman from Marianas High School.
Brylle Angelo of Dr. Rita H. Inos High School said, “All of the icebreakers were entertaining and fun. I really liked the “Choose a side” activity. Not only was it a way to let us know more about the preferences of the people in the room, but it also showed that everyone can have a different perspective and opinion from you.
Later, the students split into different groups known as sub-committees where they will work with others to identify issues affecting the CNMI. Over the next few days, the students collaborated with each other to research their chosen problem and began writing their own proposals to solve the problem. The instructors gave them tips on how to write their drafts, and the students engaged in discussions about their chosen problem. They were also able to get input from experts from different departments and organizations while writing their proposals, as well as from US Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan.
Once completed, all the sub-committees presented their bill to everyone at the top. Their proposal was then challenged in a brief period of debate during which other committees were able to ask tough questions about the group’s solution. At the end of the debate, all the students then voted on whether the presented bill should pass or not. Some groups were unable to rack up enough votes to proceed, while others who got enough votes were given a chance to present their proposals to dignitaries the following day.
All the committees wrote compelling proposals that would help solve their specific problem. When asked which bills presented stood out to them, Andrew Sunderland of Saipan Southern High School said, “The MRI proposal to create and implement them here at CNMI stuck with me. This is a matter that has been postponed for so long although she has already answered the Governor’s request for specific details. Instead, it was ignored for a year and still is.
Another student, Jane Mozunder, said: “A proposal from the Board of Education’s sub-committee on the mismanagement of school funds stuck with me. This committee stressed the importance of managing school funds as it can have a significant impact. Due to mismanagement of funds, CNMI schools have broken infrastructure, less equipment, and more! This is a critical issue as it affects students and their future.
On the last day of the summit, the sub-committees that managed to get their bills passed the day before were presented to the members of the CNMI Legislative Assembly. Members of the House, Senate, and gubernatorial candidates took the time to listen to student submissions and voice their opinions on the issues.
When asked what they thought of the Close-Up Summit, Representative Tina Sablan said, “I really enjoyed the Close-Up Youth Summit and appreciated the opportunity to hear from young people from the island talk about the problems they think are most important, and the solutions they offer to the problems they see. Being informed and involved in the issues affecting our islands is part of being a good citizen. The CNMI needs its youth to do both if we are to grow as a community. The Close-Up program provides a great opportunity for young people to learn about issues together and brainstorm ideas, and I absolutely believe that students should continue to come together for events like this in the future. »
The four-day summit was a great learning experience for all of the students who attended. They were able to meet members of our government who continue to help the changes needed in our community and learn more about the issues affecting our Commonwealth.
This summit also showed that it is important for young people to engage with civic education and government. When we asked them what they thought, Jakey De Leon Guerrero of MHS said, “Just as students need to have financial literacy to succeed in life, students also need to know how government works to thrive. They must be educated so that they have the ability to impact their community. Soon it will be the manhoben who will be asked what to do, and it is up to us manhoben to learn as much as possible about the government, because everyone is affected by the government, to one way or another. ”
Another student, Jérôme Manzon, underlined that it is important “to express to the elected officials what we want to do and to address the problems of the community to them. It is important to understand the process of making a law so they can think through the issues they want officials to address and work on.
We also asked many students what they learned from this summit and how it impacted them. Jimmina Flamar from Kagman High School said, “The program gave me a lot of perspective. Listening to others share what really excites them and hearing all the amazing proposals, some of which I was never aware of and some I never took seriously, and this program opened my heart to understand the relevance of resisting the importance of our people, environment, culture and economy. Additionally, Close-Up encouraged me to improve my public speaking and leadership skills.
Dennise Miguel of Tinian Jr. Sr. High School commented, “One of the best ways for students to voice their opinions are through programs like the Close-Up Youth Summit. This shows the perspective of the impact students can have on issues in their environment and other issues.
Students deserve to have a voice in the community and in our government. The voice of young people matters, emphasizes Klin De Leon Guerrero. “In my opinion, our voices, young people, are the most crucial of all age groups. Ultimately, we will be the ones to take over once our current leaders leave office. If we feel something is a problem it’s most likely a serious problem, if there was anything we could do about it we would have done it by now but it’s not up to us anymore because of our adolescence. I sincerely believe that we should have a chance and not be closed or neglected because of our age. Once we take the place of our leaders, it is then our turn to prepare the next generation to take over, all for our well-being and survival.
“I loved how elected and appointed government officials welcomed all students and inspired them to continue to be advocates and problem solvers. I love how students could see themselves as the future policy makers of our community because they will be and I feel like the Close Up summit gives them a few days to practice doing it one day,” said PSS social studies coordinator Vinni Orsini when we asked about his thoughts.
The Close-Up Youth Summit was a great opportunity for students from our islands to learn more about our government and the issues affecting our Commonwealth. The students left satisfied and delighted to have been able to come to this event. We thank the Close-Up Foundation, the CNMI government, PSS and the many departments that participated in the expert panel section of the summit. We would also like to thank the various delegates who came to the summit to meet the young people as well as all the students who came to participate.