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Educational trip includes Samoa's celebration

An ASCC student fully enjoys a rare treat for these islands - cotton candy - during Samoa's Independence celebrations. A trip to Samoa earlier this month by students and staff of the Student Support Services (SSS) Division gave them an opportunity to observe Samoa's culture, education system, and economic activities. [Photo: A. Fuaga]

The Student Support Services (SSS) Division at the American Samoa Community College organizes an “exploratory and education” trip once a year for qualified participating students, and this year’s nine-day trip turned out to be especially significant in that it coincided with the Independent State of Samoa’s 50th Anniversary Celebration.

“Our students had the opportunity to witness a myriad of educational and cultural activities throughout the week of the celebration,” said SSS Director Dr. Repeka Alaimoana-Nuusa. “We witnessed the opening ceremonies, cultural events, and much more.”

Federally funded as a TRIO program, the SSS follows a specific mandate of helping low-income and first-generation students, including those with disabilities, to succeed in and graduate from college. Participants receive tutoring, counseling, and remedial instruction to assist them in completing college. The SSS strives to increase the college retention and graduation rates of its participants and facilitate the process of transition from one level of higher education to the next.

A fixture at ASCC for more than 20 years, the SSS typically serves approximately 200 participants from the English Language Institute (ELI) per year.

16 SSS students qualified for this year’s trip to Samoa, chosen based on their academic performance as well as participation in regular SSS activities. Alaimoana-Nuusa explained that the yearly educational trip fulfills the TRIO goals of exposing participants to cultural events and academic programs not usually available to disadvantaged students, as well as providing activities and instruction designed to acquaint students participating in the project with the range of career options available to the students.

With these guidelines in mind, the SSS designed an itinerary which took in not only on Samoa’s cultural aspects, but also on the educational, political and economic dimensions of the independent nation. “Quite a few of our students had actually never traveled to Samoa before,” said Alaimoana-Nuusa, “so for them to observe the differences between their ways of doing things and ours was quite an eye opener.”

Prior to the Independence celebrations, the traveling party, which included four SSS staff and one ELI instructor, spent three days in Tafatafa, Falealili for a village immersion experience. They lived in a traditional village setting, with only limited modern resources like those back home, and experienced the richness of Samoan culture through oral presentations and touring of significant sites.

Next, they toured the National University of Samoa and the Scientific Research Organization of Samoa (SROS), where numerous local resources have been discovered to produce excellent sources of fuel and oil. “We witnessed containers of coconut diesel oil being used for all the SROS vehicles,” recalled Alaimoana-Nuusa. “We also bought avocado oil that is supposedly better than olive oil, and students were given the types of avocado (fuente and pinkerton) that produce the best and most useful oil for consumption.

In another section of the SROS, local flour was being produced out of breadfruit and tapioca. These same crops grow in abundance in American Samoa, and tapioca is the main crop of our SSS plantation. After we viewed the SROS lab facilities, the young group of researchers there explained the need for Samoan researchers and encouraged our students to pursue careers in science and agriculture.”

While the traditional and educational aspects of Samoa would prove memorable in themselves, it was the country’s independence celebrations provided the students with a truly once-in-a-lifetime cultural experience, with its dizzying array of cultural concerts, parades featuring historical and modern floats, boat races, songs, dances, gospel concerts and much more. Besides the wealth of Samoan cultural activities associated with the event, the SSS students also witnessed the participation of other ethnic groups such as Chinese, Koreans, Europeans, other Pacific islanders, and even Africans. The timing of the visit proved particularly advantageous to two SSS students whose home villages had sent performing groups to Samoa for the festivities. These two students both participated in their villages’ performances at Mulinuu before rejoining their fellow SSS travelers.

The trip may have ranged far and wide in its scope, but Alaimoana-Nuusa explained that a daily routine helped the students maintain a sense of continuity and keep it all in perspective. During their nine days in Samoa, daily activities for the SSS group included daily devotions, counseling, discussions, cultural participation and evaluations of daily activities.

“Students did daily reflections each evening on their activities and they wrote reports and completed evaluations,” said Alaimoana-Nuusa. With the SSS group now back home, she will assist the students in compiling a newsletter consisting of their reflections collected during the trip.

For more information on the SSS program at ASCC, visit: http://www.amsamoa.edu/academicssupportsss.htm



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