SINCE the 4-H Marianas was established in 2015, it has served more than 20,000 youth in Rota, Tinian, and Saipan. When I got involved with 4-H at a young age, I didn’t realize how much I would benefit from learning about leadership, agriculture, and community engagement. I learned through this organization how to be an advocate for positive youth development.
4-H continues to give youth around the world opportunities to engage with one another and enhance their skills to be better versions of themselves, or to reach their fullest potential as our mission states. My experience as a 4-H member has shown me that bridging the gap between our youth and the community across the islands allows for new experiences and eye-opening realms of new possibilities.
The 4-H organization is a U.S.-wide organization that was established in 1902. The 4-H Marianas is a youth-led nonprofit organization. It comprises of a 4-H Marianas Youth State Council that is run by a president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, and senators. Each island has representatives for each position. In addition to the youth leadership, 4-H Marianas has an overall Board of Directors. The Board of Directors also has representatives from the respective islands that serve in advisory and mentorship roles for the youth. The Northern Marianas College's Cooperative Research, Extension, and Education Services Family, Community, and Youth Development Program, made up of employees of the Northern Marianas College, also plays an active role as 4-H advisers and mentors.
4-H members volunteer their time and efforts to help the community. The Teen Leaders Club is a program in which members commit to two years of community outreach. In the first project year, the teens work on a research project guided by advisors and peer mentors from the previous cohort to address issues that affect the youth community. In their second year, they serve as peer mentors to the next group of 4-H Teen Leaders. There are currently five groups that are made up of youth from all three islands. One group is working on a project on plastic pollution in the schools. The members surveyed 300+ of their peers across the islands to ask information about the use of plastic from their school breakfast and lunches. They also asked how they think would be the best way to switch to more environmentally friendly options.
The 4-H Marianas' most anticipated project is the annual 4-H Camp Maga'lahi, a project that started in 2015 in Saipan. Due to its success, the camp expanded to Rota and Tinian in 2020. Partners such as the Mariana Islands Nature Alliance, the Bureau of Environment and Coastal Quality, and 500 sails, to name a few, participate by showcasing exhibits or hosting hands-on activities to allow campers to engage and explore their interests. The camp has welcomed more than 600 youth in the last seven years.
4-H Marianas is always looking for new partnerships that can educate our youth and provide greater opportunities to enhance their skills. I recently met with the Governor’s Council of Economic Adviser’s or GCEA team to talk about how we can engage our youth in their community projects. For almost five months now, GCEA introduced the importance of Marianas Village Pride and developed programs aimed to improve the quality of life for residents at the village level. You may have seen GCEA’s partners in the community rehabilitating the medians to improve safety around the island for motorists and pedestrians. Because of our network in the islands, we were able to identify sidewalks, bus stops, and medians on Rota, Tinian, and Saipan that will allow our members to join GCEA’s efforts.
I encourage youth on all islands to join 4-H Marianas. 4-H Marianas is open to all youth across the CNMI and is free to all who joins! Come as you are, meet new people, and learn new skills that will provide better opportunities in life. Serving your community and becoming a productive member of society are great ways to show your Marianas pride. You’d be amazed at how your valuable contributions today can make the Marianas a better place to live for future generations.
Together, We Can!
Robert Jr. Suzuki is the Northern Marianas College’s Cooperative Research, Extension, and Education Services’ extension agent under the Family, Community, and Youth Development Programs where he works with families, the youth, and community across the CNMI to strengthen their skillsets to be productive members of our society. He passionately promotes positive youth development throughout the Marianas.