We Are Oceania (WAO) hosted the 3rd annual Micronesian Youth Summit on March 9th. The event saw over 300 Micronesian youth in attendance, along with many others from the community that came to speak to the youth about their culture, their lives, and their futures.
“You are our future,” announced Kandhi A. Elieisar, the Consul General for Micronesia in Honolulu. “You are the torchbearers of our Micronesian nations.”
Elieisar was one of several Micronesian leaders to speak to the youth. His was a message about the youth and for the youth, explaining the importance of their welfare for overall society, and even the evolving role of women in what he called our “male-dominated society.”
This year’s theme was “Navigating Success,” paying homage to both the gathering’s purpose and the heritage of those present. “This summit can help you strengthen the rudders of your canoe to help you navigate success,” went on Elieisar.
A myriad of cultural performances were given by both the youth and other Micronesian groups, such as Kosraean* stick dancers from Chaminade University of Honolulu’s Micronesian Club.
Jocelyn Howard is the Program Director of We Are Oceania, and was the primary organizer of the event. “One thing we added on this year that’s different is a whole session called ‘My Micronesia’. [It gives] the youth an opportunity to look within,” she explained.
For “My Micronesia,” the youth broke into groups by country and prepared short presentations. Ranging from frank discussions to chants and dancing, the participants encouraged and supported one another.
The keynote speaker was the Community Relations Specialist for the mayor of Oʻahu, Relley Araceley. He gave an energetic but sincere speech to the youth, talking about his own experiences growing up Micronesian in Hawaiʻi – the good and the bad – and touched on an issue felt by all in the room: a feeling of belonging.
“There’s a humility inside of us, and sometimes it’s hard to feel proud of who we are,” Araceley said.
Partners in Development Foundation and We Are Oceania would like to extend our warmest aloha to Matson, the Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work, the U.S. Department of the Interior, the East West Center, Micronesian United Oʻahu, the Marshallese Consulate office, Marshallese Education Day, Micronesian Cultural Awareness Program, and the Micronesian Health Advisory Coalition. Without the kind and generous partnership from these sponsors, the 2019 Micronesian Youth Summit would not have been possible.
*This corrects an earlier version that incorrectly identified the Chaminade University stick dance as Chuukese. We apologize for the error and mahalo those who brought it to our attention. We will always strive for accuracy and transparency, and honor the unique cultures of our many diverse peoples.