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Strength & Leadership

If you want to be in the know about what’s going on at our organization, you’ve come to the right place.

Be sure to check back regularly to get our latest news updates.

Youth Artists: Are you ready to grow your arts leadership skills?

Educators: Do you know a creative young person, ready to grow as a leader?

Apply or nominate someone to become part of the 2024-2025 Washington Youth Arts Leadership Cohort.

Nomination/Application Deadline: July 11, 2024, at 5:00 p.m.

Spring is in full swing, and Voices of Pacific Island Nations (VOPIN) is thrilled about the upcoming events and initiatives for education, culture, and community. We invite you to join us and mark your calendars for these events. Let's work together to make the most of this season of warmth and renewal!

Bremerton High School student Mia Sianquita is a vibrant 16-year-old junior with a zest for life that is as infectious as it is inspiring. As someone who loves "hanging out with [her] friends, traveling, and playing volleyball,” Mia embodies the spirit of youthful exploration and friendship. Her involvement with the Voices of Pacific Island Nations (VOPIN) program at Bremerton High School showcases her commitment to community and her personal growth within a supportive educational environment.

VOPIN March 2024 Newsletter

18 and under can ride free on buses, ferries and trains across the Puget Sound. Participating agencies include Kitsap Transit, King County Metro, Sound Transit, Community Transit, Everett Transit, Pierce Transit and Washington State Ferries.

Meet Rebecca Smith, a vibrant 15-year-old ninth grader at Bremerton High School, whose enthusiasm and diverse interests shine through in a recent interview with Voices of Pacific Island Nations (VOPIN).

Happy February! We hope this newsletter finds you in good health and high spirits. As we dive into the second month of the year, we're excited to share some heartwarming updates from VOPIN's Navigating Education (NE) project at Bremerton High School.

As we usher in the new year of 2024, Voices of Pacific Island Nations (VOPIN) remains committed to addressing the pressing issues faced by Pacific Islander students in the realm of education. In our pursuit of creating a better future for the Pacific Islander community, we are excited to announce significant steps forward in our Navigating Education initiative.

Jody Sonmak, a 15-year-old freshman at Bremerton High School, may have just moved to Washington from Guam and Hawaii, but she's already making a big impact. Jody credits Voices of Pacific Island Nations (VOPIN)'s Navigating Education Program with helping her adjust to her new environment, improve her academics, and connect with her Pacific Islander identity.

Ali'ikai's story is one of resilience and triumph, starting from his upbringing in the Eastside of Tacoma and West Seattle to getting kicked out from school. But within the Pacific Islander community, he found strength and unity, treating each other like family. Despite hurdles, he graduated high school, while being a young dad, and worked tirelessly to support his family. At 21, he made the life-changing decision to join the military, finding stability and a supportive cushion for his journey into adulthood.

This week, we were honored to have Megan Burton, STEM and Learning Supervisor of Kitsap Regional Library, join Voices of Pacific Island Nations (VOPIN)'s Navigating Education after school program at Bremerton High School! Megan generously shared valuable insights on internship opportunities and provided expert guidance on resume building to empower our students.

Eliza Evans, our dedicated VOPIN volunteer, and John Perkins, our newest staff member, joined our Navigating Education afterschool program to meet our students and lead experiential activities focused on positive youth development and cultivating strong relationships.

We are grateful to share a moment of inspiration from our recent Together for Education fundraiser, featuring a compelling speech by VOPIN Intern, Keion Clark. Keion emphasizes the vital role of unity and support for education in Pacific Island communities. His speech is a poignant reminder that our collective efforts can make a lasting impact on the lives of those in need.
Expertly edited by the talented Soyoun Ann Kim.

Research has shown that when students feel safe and have a sense of belonging, they tend to do well academically. Aniya Clark, an outstanding 11th-grade student at Bremerton High School, is currently enrolled in the 'Running Start' program and is a member of VOPIN's 'Navigating Education' initiative. Aniya offers peer-to-peer math tutoring to her fellow students, inspiring them to pursue their aspirations. In a recent interview, she shared her perspective on different aspects of her life and her involvement with VOPIN.

Mahani Teave's artistry is a bridge between music and the environment. She uses her music as a vessel to raise awareness about climate change, drawing parallels between the beauty of the Earth and the harmony of her melodies. "We're not just intellect, we are not just emotions, we are not just a soul," she says, "We're also a body, and we're connected to what's around us, and we are responsible for everything we do."

Meet Charles Griffin, a bright 14-year-old freshman at Bremerton High School, who is already making waves with his unique blend of hobbies and ambitions.

Join our team and help us make a difference for Pasefika youth and families!
We are seeking a full-time Director of Youth and Young Adult Services and a full-time Education Navigator (high school tutor/mentor). Ideal candidates will have a passion for education and equity and experience working with Pasefika communities. Please see position descriptions and application instructions below.

Voices of Pacific Island Nations (VOPIN) addresses these disparities with targeted support by providing high-quality, culturally responsive services and resources to eliminate educational and opportunity inequities. We serve as a bridge to develop stronger relationships between students, families, schools, and the community.

Read more of the study by The Annie E. Casey Foundation:

Mahalo, Fa'afetai, Malo, Vinaka, Kia ora, Si yu'us ma'åse, Olketa, Yokwe, Fakaaue, Fa'afetai tele, Mauruuru, Tenkyu tru, Kinisou, Mogethin, Kinisou chapur, Thank you to all our incredible sponsors and generous donors who made VOPIN’s Together for Education Lū’au and fundraiser a huge success!

VOPIN aims to rectify educational disparities faced by Pacific Islander students in Washington State. By separating Asian American and Pacific Islander statistics, VOPIN highlights the academic struggles of Pacific Islanders. Poverty, language barriers, cultural differences, and low parental engagement hinder Pacific Islander students' success. VOPIN's tutoring program has seen progress in improving graduation rates, and it plans to expand by fostering cultural connection through arts and community centers, facing challenges of funding and inclusivity.

WOW! What an electric night it was at Voices of Pacific Island Nations (VOPIN)’s "Together for Education" Lū’au & Fundraising Event! Our hearts are bursting with gratitude as we announce that, with YOUR incredible support, we've raised over $30,000 in support of our educational programs! Your presence, support, and boundless enthusiasm made this event an unforgettable experience.

To Apply: If you decide to apply for this position, please visit Kitsap Transit's employment link at Please contact Marianne Rajan in the Human Resources Department at (360) 478-5852 if you have any questions.

VOPIN's 'Navigating Education' project encourages our students to take ownership of their academic success and future. However, our students not only struggle academically, but their families are also struggling to navigate multiple socioeconomic challenges, which is reflected by our students' lack of achievement...

The Seattle area-based nonprofit is helping 80-plus students — the majority are Pacific Islander high school students — to overcome academic obstacles, and it has big plans to match the magnitude of the moment for the PI community.

Voices of Pacific Island Nations' March 2023 Newsletter

My perfect score (11/11) in my Finance Fitness class reminds me that you can overcome your fears and rise above uncertainty: May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears! (N. Mandela).

The 'Mau' was a non-violent movement for Samoa's independence from colonial rule during the first half of the 20th century. 'Mau' means 'resolute' or 'resolved' in the sense of 'opinion,' 'unwavering,' also denoting 'firm strength' in Samoan. The motto for the Mau were the words 'Samoa mo Samoa (Samoa for the Samoans).' The movement began on the island of Savai'i with the 'Mau a Pule' resistance in the early 1900s with widespread support throughout the country by the late 1920s... The 'Mau' included women who supported the national organization through leadership and organization as well as taking part in marches.

Watch Untold Pacific History on our Arts and Culture page

The first Pacific Islander to reach the Challenger Deep! Nicole Yamase is an inspirational role model for young Pacific Islanders interested in pursuing STEM. Nicole was born in Pohnpei but dwelled in other parts of the Federated States of Micronesia. As a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Hawaii studying Marine Biology: I just want young Pacific Islanders to see that there is no limit to what we can accomplish. I want them to see themselves in me. We can do anything! I hope this experience inspires other young Pacific Islanders to pursue STEM fields and higher education, so that they can serve as a role model for the next generation.

"Yamase's inspiring voyage to the Challenger Deep is a once-in-a-lifetime journey to a place that less than 20 people visited before in human history," said Malte Stuecker--assistant professor at University of Hawaii Manoa Dept of Oceanography. "And now I could see, quite literally how these reefs in the Federated States of Micronesia are connected with the deepest place on Earth," added Yamase.

Mau Piailug (1932 - 2010) was a Micronesian navigator from the Carolinian island of Satawal, best known as a teacher of traditional, non-instrument wayfinding methods for open-ocean voyaging. Mau's navigation methods relied on elements of nature, such as the sun, stars, winds and clouds, seas and swells, and birds and fish.

Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Niue, Rotuma, Tokelau, Tuvalu, Futuna and Uvea formed a large exchange community in which wealth and people with their skills and arts circulated endlessly... Oceania is vast, Oceania is expanding, Oceania is hospitable and generous, Oceania is humanity rising from the depths of brine and regions of fire deeper still, Oceania is Us.

John Alexander Kneubuhl, an accomplished playwright, is the son of a Samoan mother and an American father. On July 2, 1920, John was born in Fagatogo, American Samoa. His father, Benjamin F. Kneubuhl, was a navy surveyor from Iowa who settled in Samoa and later became a successful businessman. John’s mother was Atalina Pritchard from Apia, Samoa.

Mark your calendars because Kitsap Great Give is starting in just a few days! Help strengthen, unite, and empower your community by donating to participating nonprofits like Voices of Pacific Island Nations!

It is not the intention of VOPIN to influence one's opinion or belief of the origin of Pacific Islanders. Technology is absolute in some respect, but the spirituality of Pacific Islanders is fundamental to what developed their history and identity. Before technology, multiple beliefs and legends are handed down from generation to generation about the heritage of Pacific Islanders.

The selection you are watching is one of many theories contesting other technology. However, Pacific Islanders believe in Mana, Tagaloalagi, and other Spirits of the Heavens that formed their identity.

Washington Gives is partnering with Voices of Pacific Island Nations through their online giving platform that helps individuals, groups, and businesses to discover and donate to nonprofits headquartered or serving Washington. Washington Gives hosts two fundraising campaigns, GivingTuesday and GiveBIG, a Washington-focused campaign that kicks off April 19 and culminates on May 3-4! Support by giving to causes you love at

Samoans are most proud of their heritage and history. This YouTube clip consists of several Samoan cultures and history. It starts with the simple concept of starting a fire from rubbering together dry "fau" trees. As far back to the 1500s, ancient Samoan stories tell of warriors swinging fire clubs as they ran from lookout to hill, lighting beacons of fire in time of an invasion. The Samoan "Siva Afi or Fire dance" has become more than an art. The Siva Afi has become both a symbol of the past and future. Check out this excellent documentary featured on our Arts and Culture page.

Getting tattooed is a rite of passage into the circle of Chiefs. Chief Sielu Avea shared his experience about getting tattooed. The female tattoo is called "Malu," and the male tattoo is called "Tatau." The art of tattoo in Samoa was banned during the arrival of English missionaries and Christianity in the 1830s. However, the Sulu'ape family was instrumental in revitalizing the art in the Pacific.

Last but not least, Samoans are always willing to share their culture and history with others and make them feel part of the family.

The story of Junior and his cousin Ruth will make you wonder: What if? How can I make the world a better place?They live in Papua New Guinea, an island nation in the Pacific Ocean, in the middle of one of the world's largest rainforests. Their journey is over a hundred kilometers in the so-called 'Land of 1000 Rivers,' a five-day journey that leads them through jungles and dangerous terrains just to get an education. Watch Most Dangerous Ways to school on our Arts and Culture page.

Ask yourself - What if? How can I make the world a better place?

The Melanesia region include the four independent countries of Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and Papua New Guinea. The name Melanesia--etymologically--means "island of black [people], in reference to the dark skin of the inhabitants.

AMBRYM - the Black Island of Vanuatu... Watch The Black Island documentary linked in our Arts and Culture page.

The art of tattooing is thought to have originated from Polynesia, and the word tattoo is from the Samoan word “Tatau” (which means initiation) introduced in the English language by Captain James Cook after returning from his voyages in the South Pacific in the mid – 18th century. To be tattooed as a male or female is a rite of passage into the inner circle of chiefs. Check out the "Marks of Mana" documentary on the female history of tatau in our cultures on our Arts and Culture page.

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at a time of challenges and controversy" (MLK). Our world is changing in so many ways. We cannot ignore the past as we look forward to the future. If we continue to ignore Mother Earth, she will be distraught with our decisions. We only have one chance to get it right, or we will all be devastated. Check out Dr. Virginia Smith's insightful TED Talk on our Arts and Culture page.

COVID-19 Information in Samoan