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Territory’s youth take the lead in environmental stewardship

Finafinau National Student Council
Finafinau mentors school leaders and150 inaugural inductees
Source: Finafinau press release

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — On October 18, Finafinau held their inaugural induction at the Department of Youth and Women’s Affairs Tafuna facility and inducted close to 150 youth from three school chapters: Nu’uuli Vocational High School, Samoana High School and Tafuna High School. NVTHS, led by Head Adviser Eleanor Esau, welcomed 27 members, SHS, led by Head Adviser Uisaina Collins, welcomed 83 members, and THS, led by Head Adviser Siaa Alama, welcomed 43 members. 

The induction was the collaborative effort of the Finafinau Board and the chapter Head Advisers. Elizabeth Fano, the Board Treasurer, served as the Master of Ceremonies where she emphasized the importance of environmental advocacy for Pacific Islanders and that this induction is just the start of the journey, as “your individual actions have a gargantuan impact on the health of our island.” 

Head advisers for Finafinau’s school chapters, from L-R : Eleanor Esau (NVTHS), Siaa Alama (THS) and Uisaina Collins (SHS). [courtesy photo]

At the ceremony, the student members were recognized for their commitment to leadership and land stewardship as they will be participating in chapter activities that range from coastal clean ups, plant nursery development, learning workshops, sustainability summits and more. In addition, all chapters will work with their Head Adviser and chapter officers to devise an individual chapter project to focus on an environmental issue of their choice. 

Due to the expanded nature of Finafinau, a National Student Council (NSC) will serve as a platform for student leaders to provide overall assistance to all chapter officers as well as intern with their counterparts in the Finafinau Board. Bainivalu Davetawalu was recognized as the NSC President to intern with Board President Dr. Sabrina Suluai-Mahuka, Haylie Tuiasosopo was recognized as the NSC Vice President to intern with Board Vice President Denis Sene Jr., Darin Aumoeualogo was recognized as the NSC Secretary to intern with Board Secretary Siumukuka Fa’aiuaso, Rhaelyn Toleafoa was recognized as the NSC Treasurer to intern with Board Treasurer Elizabeth Fano, and Etuale Sefika was recognized as the NSC Communications Chair to intern with Board Communications Chair Kacey-Amy Iloilo.

NSC President and SHS chapter president, Bainivalu shared his gratitude, “The overall turnout for Finafinau's induction was stellar. It was a beautiful experience to see and witness my fellow islander peers celebrate a shared vision and divulge their passion for bringing about the change our island's environment deserves more of. I am honored to serve as this organization's student council president and am looking forward to all that Finafinau has in store.”

Later this month, Bainivalu, with the guidance of his mentor Suluai-Mahuka, will have the opportunity to showcase a short clip of the educational and cultural values of Finafinau at the upcoming regional conference for the Young Pacific Leaders TechCamp. This is just one example of how Finafinau aims to elevate the youth and empower them with opportunities to serve as community leaders and environmentalists.  

Denis Sene Jr., the Board Vice President, served as the Keynote Speaker and shared his leadership journey, especially reflecting on his recent experience as the Harvard Senior Executives in State and Local Government Program. In his speech, Denis relayed “It is reported in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that even a small increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius would cause devastating effects to our islands. This would negatively impact our corals, which is important right now for palolo season, and it would impact our native birds, trees, and overall human health.” At the tail end of his speech Sene further emphasized, “Finafinau means to be steadfast and resilient, and that is exactly what we Finafinau officers and advisers aim to encourage and teach you students. Whatever path you take in life, we hope that Finafinau made a positive impact and empowered you to be a better leader and environmental ambassador towards our people.” 

Inaugural inductees for Finafinau’s three school chapters — Nu’uuli Vocational High School, Samoana High School and Tafuna High School. [courtesy photo]


 Finafinau is a nonprofit organization which focuses on promoting youth leadership for environmental advocacy and climate action. The overall goal of Finafinau is to elevate our youth and embolden them with the skills and knowledge to be leaders in the community and to uphold the motto of Save our Ocean, Protect our Land, and Empower our People.