Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Saipan Chamber of Commerce Scholarship Time

I just got back from one of my favorite things, the awarding of scholarships to some very deserving high school seniors, who either just graduated, or are about to graduate. Each year the Saipan Chamber of Commerce awards these scholarships to some of our college bound students. I've been a member of the Chamber for the past 11 years, and this has got to be one of the best things we do. I had to wait for both of my children, and their friends to graduate and get out of school before I felt comfortable sitting on the Education committee that interviews the prospective scholarship winners. So last year was my first year that I was able to be a part of the interviewing committee, and it was everything I expected it would be and so much more.

Sitting there listening to these brilliant young students talk about their lives, their hopes and their dreams made me realize that we do indeed have hope. When you can get them to relax enough to open up and share their thoughts with you, it's a very enlightening experience. Too many times we tend to focus on the problem youngsters among us, those that steal, vandalize and generally just cause problems. Typically you don't hear much about the group we were interviewing, they're too busy studying, being involved in service clubs, competing in various competitions, cleaning beaches, tutoring, giving free ballet lessons, and the list goes on and on.

Last year the committee decided that each of us would stay in touch with the student we awarded the scholarship to, and encourage them during that often difficult first year of college. We were going to act as a mentor of sorts, and just try to be there for them, and help encourage them to chase after their dreams. My student was Semona Igama, a very impressive young lady who managed to graduate near the top of her class at Marianas High School, and she did it in only 3 years. I got to know Semona fairly well as she wanted to be my intern last summer and learn a little bit about the radio business. I think she was shocked to find out just how tedious and boring it could be, editing interviews really isn't much fun. Then Semona went off to her first year of college at Northern Marianas College, which she just recently finished up. I know this will come as no surprise, but her grades were excellent. It should also come as no surprise that she plans on finishing her 2 year degree in only a year and a half. Then she is eyeing colleges in the U.S. to pursue her medical degree. Semona is well on her way to a very exciting and bright future, and I'm so thankful that the Saipan Chamber of Commerce could at least play a very small part in it.

Today I got to award a scholarship to Tikla Brown, another amazing young lady who almost seemed too good to be true. I found it ironic that one of Tikla's goals was to become a good role model, since she already has given free ballet classes to the community, she has been in community theater - sewing costumes and directing plays, cleaned beaches, served in Americorps, played in the community band, and tutored other students for free. Tikla already exemplifies community service and is an outstanding role model. She wants to get her degree in music, and then return to bring music to the islands in choirs, private lessons, a capella groups, show choirs, musical theater, general music classes and workshops. And I believe that this young lady will accomplish anything she sets her mind to. With students like this wanting to return to Saipan, our future looks pretty bright after all. We definitely have some bumps in the road, and it's probably going to get worse before it gets better, but I'm encouraged because of some of the amazing students our schools, and our parents are putting out. I say that because Tikla was home schooled for the last year of high school. The other students who were awarded scholarships today were: Raneeza Cano - Grace Christian Academy, Henry Chan - Saipan International School, Emily Jang - Marianas High School, Bernadeth Piamonte - Marianas High School, and Chellette San Nicolas - Northern Marianas Academy.

Congratulations to this bright and talented group of graduates, and to all the others as well. If this is what our future looks like, I believe we're in very good hands!

1 comment:

Tikla said...

Thank you a million times over. I feel overwhelmed by the kindness and support I feel from you and the rest of the board. I really like your blog!