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Samoana senior chosen to attend Youth leadership Academy

Imanueli Davetawalu
A full-ride scholarship from Close-Up Foundation goes with the selection

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Imanueli Davetawalu, a senior at Samoana High School, born in American Samoa and a proud member of the local Fijian community, was chosen to represent American Samoa and Fiji at the Asian Pacific American Institution for Congressional Studies (APAICS) Youth Leadership Academy in Washington, D.C., from June 9 to June 14. Imanueli was afforded a full-ride scholarship by the program and the closely affiliated school organization, the Close-Up Foundation.

The program proved transformative as Imanueli engaged with peers from the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Community, delving into critical public policy issues. Discussions were centered around citizen responsibilities when government decisions diverged from community concerns, training the young leaders to provide their input in exploring various solutions.

Beyond academic pursuits, Imanueli and his fellow peer leaders explored the nation capital's history, examining its monuments' enduring political significance, and had the opportunity to meet with Congressional representatives and White House staffers supporting the AANHPI community, provided invaluable insights into national advocacy and leadership.

Imanueli, being the only student from American Samoa, his primary motivation for participating in this prestigious academy was to amplify the voice of American Samoa, facing unique challenges ranging from climate issues to local governance, as well as to amplify the resilience and hope he has for the future of his generation.

Despite efforts from other Pacific Islander representatives advocating for equitable representation, Imanueli noted a distinct lack of a comparable platform for American Samoa in the national discourse.

During a panel discussion with one of the White House Staffers working under the Biden Administration for the White House Initiative on the AANHPI Communities, he had a sense of curiosity asking — although American Samoa is affiliated with the AANHPI Community, “will the people of American Samoa ever get a glance in the programs set up by the organizing of the White House Initiative?”

Throughout most of the panel discussions with many important congressional and educational advocates, Imanueli felt the lack of representation, and voices from American Samoa should be included, whether from political discussions and effects or being present in any forums or meetings concerning the AANHPI Community.

 But with the greater fact of gaining insight on the many ongoing solutions being made by representatives, Imanueli feels that he has now had the encounter with first-hand involvements and knowledge, with hope to provide a broader and bigger perspective and platform for the challenges we often face.

Now an alumni of the APAICS Youth Leadership Academy, he is determined to share the knowledge and passion gained in Washington, D.C. Imanueli pledges to advocate vigorously for increased representation and support for all Pacific Islander communities, including his own.

As he and his fellow peer leaders prepare to assume leadership roles, Imanueli emphasizes the importance of upholding political efficacy and inclusivity principles, ensuring every voice is heard and respected. He also serves on the Student Government Association for his school and hopes to bring his experience to build hope for his fellow peers.

Imanueli expressed profound gratitude to his family, friends, and community, whose steadfast support made this journey possible.

He aims to return with newfound knowledge and an eagerness to further advocate for voices like his and to seek enhanced representation for his small island territory. Above all, he hopes to inspire the young generation of American Samoa to embrace the courage and responsibility needed for political efficacy and what it means to be a true leader.