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Ignacio Dela Cruz to represent NMI in regional conference

TANAPAG Head Start teacher Ignacio Dela Cruz will represent the CNMI in the 2019 Young Pacific Leaders Conference in Suva, Fiji on March 6-9.

Tanapag Head Start teacher Ignacio Dela Cruz will represent the CNMI in the 2019 Young Pacific Leaders Conference in Fiji. Photo by Lori Lyn C. Lirio

Forty-six young professionals from 20 Pacific islands were chosen to attend the conference, which is facilitated by the U.S. Department of State and Cultural Vistas.

It aims to provide participants with the knowledge and skills needed to address challenges in civic leadership, the environment and resource management, education, and economic and social development.

In an interview, Dela Cruz said he is honored to represent the CNMI. “Honestly, I doubted if I would be selected for this prestigious program. But I applied anyway.”

On Dec. 24, 2018, he received a message from the conference committee informing him that he was selected to be the sole representative of the CNMI. “I felt pressured and at the same excited for having the privilege to represent us at the conference.”

He said the event will give him a chance to collaborate with other young professionals from other Pacific islands.

In the essay he submitted to the conference committee, “I wrote that an educated community is a successful community. Growing up, I often hear people saying we were the future leaders. I am 25 years old now. Now is my chance to lead and I am instilling the same idea in my students — they will lead the CNMI someday.”

At the Fiji conference, he intends to gain knowledge and skills that he will bring back to the CNMI. “Moreover, I am excited, not just for my own experience, my opportunity and my own enrichment, but for the chance to meet and collaborate with other young people who have the same ideas, the same concerns for our island homes.”

Dela Cruz obtained a bachelor of arts degree in special education from the University of Guam in 2015.

He is one year away from obtaining his master’s degree in speech language pathology from San Jose State University in California.