Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he hosted 16 students and 5 teachers from American Samoa during their stay in Washington, D.C. for the Close Up program last week. This year’s group represented the high schools of Fa’asao/Marist, Faga’itua, Kanana Fou, Leone, Manu’a, Nu’uuli Polytechnic, Samoana, and Tafuna.
Their first day with the Congressman began at the brand-new Capitol Visitor’s Center, on Wednesday March 3rd. Honored guests at the first Capitol Hill public viewing of the film Hokule’a – Guiding Star, the students and teachers took their front row seats alongside The Honorable Banny deBrum, Republic of the Marshall Islands Ambassador to the U.S., and Mr. Nikolao Pula, Director of the Office of Insular Affairs at the Department of Interior.
The educational film, brought to Capitol Hill by Congressman Faleomavaega and the Smithsonian Institution, offered the students a cultural perspective of the Polynesian navigators on-board the voyage of the Hawaiian canoe Hokule’a to the island of Rapa Nui. Echoed in the film and throughout their time with the Congressman was the theme of passing on invaluable cultural traditions and insight to younger generations.
After the film the students, dressed in their traditional Samoan puletasi attires, headed directly to the Rayburn House Office Building where they were guests of Chairman Faleomavaega during a hearing of the Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment. The hearing focused on the Regional Overview of East Asia and the Pacific. There the students observed witness Kurt Campbell, Assistant Secretary on the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and his testimony to the Subcommittee.
The next day, the students returned to Capitol Hill for Q & A and lunch with the Congressman as well as a tour of the Capitol. Gathered in the Congressman’s office they went around the room for introductions, sharing their educational interests and plans for the future. Their interests ranged from biology, business, and agriculture to anthropology, math, government and philosophy. Their career goals varied from doctor to engineer. One student shared her goal to major in political science with an emphasis on human rights. Another student shared his plan to study architecture at MIT, while another shared her goal of following her mother’s footsteps to become a pharmacist. From Captain of the soccer team to Student Body President, their various leadership roles and accomplishments reflected their energy and determination to succeed.
Congressman Faleomavaega also fielded questions from the students ranging from healthcare and education in American Samoa, to the war in Afghanistan and immigration policy. The Congressman encouraged the students to always “aim for first place” in their educational pursuits while holding on to their language and respecting their elders – the umbilical chords connecting them to their roots.
Lunch came to a close as the sound of Lo ta nu’u resonated through the halls of the Rayburn House Office Building. The group then began their Capitol tour where they visited the Capitol rotunda and the National Statuary Hall. They also sat in the House Gallery during floor statements in the House Chamber. Finally, the group gathered with the Congressman for a final photo on the steps of the Capitol. The below forty degree temperature outside didn’t stop them from having fun, as they joined Faleomavaega in one more round of singing before their departure to New York City the next morning.
Congressman Faleomavaega expressed his gratitude to the Close Up organizers for continuing to educate American Samoa students through exposure to the nation’s capital. Founded in 1971, Close Up is a nonprofit organization that inspires young people through civic education and gives teachers valuable insights to take back to classrooms nationwide. Using Washington as a living classroom, each program gives students a "close up" personal experience with government and democracy in action.
“I thank our students for continuing to strive for success and representing American Samoa with the utmost excellence. Their inquisitive minds and passion for learning will take them far in their journey. I want their teachers, parents and families to know how proud I am of their accomplishments and goals for the future,” Faleomavaega said.
“I also want to thank Paulo Salave’a, coordinator of the Close Up program in American Samoa, and the high school teachers – Salote Aoelua-Fanene (Faga’itua), Dora Samuelu (Leone), Brenda Aisoli (Samoana), and John Maiava (Tafuna) for the fine work they are doing in our high schools. Lastly I want to thank the Close Up Foundation for hosting the students and allowing our office to be a part of their ‘living classroom’ in Washington,” Faleomavaega concluded.
The students who participated in this year’s Close Up program are:
- Fitimaleafa Kalameli Tapau (Fa’asao/Marist)
- Angel Vaimauga (Faga'itua)
- Vaimalu Vaiau (Faga'itua)
- Alfred Jordan Tautolo (Kanana Fou)
- David Sene (Leone)
- Toni Ott (Leone)
- Vanila Sera Lalisha Taai (Leone)
- Fa'atauave Shannon Maiava (Manu’a)
- Ronise Fiao'o Mamea (Nu’uuli Poly-Tech)
- Elecia Fa'aiuaso (Samoana)
- Isidore Barnabas Slade (Samoana)
- Kristina Vernes (Samoana)
- Norelle Que (Tafuna)
- Jaselle Etelagi (Tafuna)
- Teuilafestival Lemisio (Tafuna)
- Allen Ah Young (Tafuna)