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Gov Lemanu aims a charge of “discrimination” at Defense Dept

Gov. Lemanu P.S. Mauga

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Governor Lemanu P. S. Mauga is calling the recent move by the Department of Defense (DoD) “discrimination” against US nationals after the return of 11 of 25 students that attended the Hawaii National Army Guard Youth Challenge Program in Honolulu.

In a statement released yesterday afternoon he stated that after “relentless efforts, all 25 students from American Samoa attending the Hawaii National Army Guard Youth Challenge Program in Honolulu, Hawaii will be allowed to stay in the program despite not being U.S. citizens.

“After intervention by Governor Lemanu, the DoD reversed its decision and issued a Memorandum for the Director of Kalaeloa Youth Challenge Academy- Hawaii ‘to allow U.S. nationals from American Samoa to participate in the Youth Challenge program’,” the release from the Governor’s Office said.

“This exemption allows the Kalaeloa Youth Challenge Academy to accept applications from U.S. nationals from American Samoa if otherwise qualified, as outlined in Section 3.3. of DoD Instruction 1025.08.

“The decision to remove our children from the Program was made by the DoD because they claimed that the program is limited to U.S. citizens only.

“The Hawaii National Guard Youth Challenge Program is a pathway program funded by the U.S. Department of Defense to allow at-risk youth to earn a GED and learn other important life skills.”

Furthermore the 11 students who were forced to return home this Monday will be given the opportunity to return to the Hawaii Program next Monday, February 20.

“Governor Lemanu secured their return tickets through negotiations with the Hawaii Army National Guard.

“Although we are pleased with the reversal, this decision by the DoD highlights the constant discrimination that our people who are U.S. nationals and faithful Americans face under the U.S. system.

“Governor Lemanu vows to highlight and fight this treatment of our people under federal programs.”

According to the ASG, the parents who sent their teenage children to the Hawaii Program did so willingly without any involvement or encouragement from the American Samoa Government.

“These parents voluntarily pulled their children out of American Samoa Government (ASG) high schools (including one private school) and sent them to Hawaii to attend the program.”

On Monday, 11 of the 25 students returned to American Samoa after they were deemed ineligible for the program that targets to intervene in and reclaim the lives of 16-18 year-old high school dropouts, producing program graduates with the values of life skills, education, and self-discipline necessary to succeed as productive citizens.

The students were supposed to undergo five months of the program, but were ousted five weeks into it. 

Prior to the reversal, Hawaii Gov. Josh Green told parents in part, “I understand the frustration and anger caused by this incident and apologize for everyone’s hardship.

“The Youth Challenge Academy knows that trust will need to be earned and hope that someday in the near future, the government policy will be updated to allow US Nationals from American Samoa to join and graduate from Hawaii’s Youth Challenge Academy.”

He told parents that the program was working closely with the National Guard Bureau and the Dept. of Defense to amend the policy to allow US Nationals to participate in the program.