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    Monday, August 20, 2018-5:30:20P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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PSS holds first summit for middle school students

ABOUT 150 middle school students attended a summit on Tuesday at the Saipan World Resort that aimed to help them make the right choices when dealing with the challenges of puberty.

The Public School System’s associate commissioner for the Office of Curriculum and Instruction, Jackie Quitugua, said the summit “emphasized the importance of caring for each other and building healthy relationships and making sure that we are providing that kind of assistance for our students — we need to pay attention to the challenges that our kids face.”

She said PSS studies the data collected from the youth risk behavior survey to determine what the children need and what to improve in terms of PSS practices, programs and policies.

Based on the latest data, she added, “we are seeing a decrease in tobacco use and also a better, healthier knowledge about sex, but we are also seeing challenges in drug use and alcohol,” she said.

There was a “very slight increase in drug and alcohol use among teenagers — from 32.8 to 33.4. Insignificant perhaps, but we want to decrease it,” she said.

“So what programs and events will empower the kids to make good choices and decisions? That is why the summit theme is, ‘I have a voice, I have a vision, I am the future.’ We want the students to take personal responsibility.”

Dandan Middle School principal Lynn Mendiola said the event also focused on issues that students experience every day, including bullying, peer pressure, and relationships with their friends and the opposite sex.

One of the presenters was Kagman High School’s Gerard Van Gils who said he was once a bully.

He said he stopped bullying a fellow student named Danny when a teachers whom he respected called his attention to his awful behavior.

About 150 middle school students attended the PSS summit, Tuesday, at the Saipan World Resort.  Photo by Lori Lyn C. LirioAbout 150 middle school students attended the PSS summit, Tuesday, at the Saipan World Resort. Photo by Lori Lyn C. Lirio

“For the bullied, I want you to know that it gets better. Life is not middle school, it is not high school. It goes on for a long time. Don’t be afraid of how are you feeling. Tell your bully how he or she makes you feel.

“For the bully, your memory is good. I bullied Danny when I was 16 years old, and 20 years later, I still remember what I did and how I did it,” he added.

Van Gils said teachers cannot force students to be kind. “You are the ones that can stop bullying. Be kind. It is that simple. Students, you are actually the solution. If you would simply be the ones to tell your friends ‘don’t do that’ then all bullying would end today.”

Mixed martial arts athlete Frank Camacho was another guest speaker.

He said his dream was to fight at the UFC. “For 14 years I was telling my friends and family: that’s what I want to do. People told me I couldn’t do it. But I stuck to my dream. I kept my eye on my goal and worked really hard for it and now I am here.”

He told the students to “set your goal and work really hard for it and believe in yourself. Find a mentor. Character and attitude are everything. You have to be a positive person.”

Another presenter, crisis counseling program data specialist AJ Mettao, said students should not be afraid to talk about their problems.

“If you are being harmed, abused as a kid, it is not okay. You have every right to talk to someone about it. You have the power to take control of your own life, even at an early age. Be confident that there are people around you that truly care about you — teachers, counselors,” he said.

Mettao also discussed briefly his life in federal prison where he spent two years for setting a vehicle on fire, one belonging to a radio station that formerly employed him as a DJ. “A lot of what I did was related to drugs and alcohol,” he said.