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Faasao Marist High School grads urged to “Commit to the Lord”

Members of the Faasao Marist High School Class of 2024

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Faasao Marist High School's graduating class of 2024 received their diplomas during their Commencement Ceremony on Saturday June 8th at the DYWA gymnasium in Tafuna.

The Class of 2024 chose as their graduation theme a verse from the Bible in Proverbs Chapter 16 Verse 3, "Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed."

After the Invocation delivered by the school Chaplain Father Pio Afu, Commencement Speaker Tavita Tautai, a 1986 graduate of Marist Brothers, Malaeloa, former longtime educator and present businessman, addressed the graduates elaborating on the theme of the day.

"The question is, what does commit to the Lord mean?" he began. "There are many meanings but for today's purpose, I would say, it means sharing and taking all your plans, questions, struggles, failures and victories to God.

"How do we do this? We pray, we pray, we pray. When you pray, God not only listens but He also goes to work for you. Tell God your plans and He will design the best plan for you. Always remember, it may not be the one you want, but time will tell and you will understand why His plans are better than yours.

"Whether your commitment is to help your parents, earn the highest degree or work right after graduation, always remember to pray to God for His guidance or just to thank Him. Your prayers show your commitment to God. If you don't know how to pray, just say the simple words, 'Thank you Lord for everything.'

"God knows what's in your heart and God knows what's in your mind. Remember, commitment does not mean perfection. It just means you are trying to do the best and the right thing. Graduates, today is your last day of high school and tomorrow will be your first day as alumni of Faasao Marist High School.

"You have and will always be part of this school's history. So make it a part of your commitment that someday, you will return to support and contribute to the success of Faasao Marist High School. Congratulations Class of 2024! Ia outou manuia!" Tautai concluded.

Governor Lemanu P.S. Mauga in his special remarks that followed, thanked Commencement Speaker Tavita Tautai for his inspirational speech and stated his hope that the graduates would follow their graduation theme to commit to the Lord all their endeavors, and to heed Tautai's advice to pray, pray, pray.

"But the question to the graduates this morning is, are you ready to face the world out there and all its challenges?" Lemanu asked.

 "My answer is yes, you are ready. As the Samoan saying goes, teach the young boy or girl our values of respect and service, because people can tell a boy or girl who is well mannered and disciplined by the way they stand, walk, talk and sit. Your parents have no doubt taught you all this. Wherever you go in this world, always remember that you are a Samoan.

"Secondly, you were born into an environment of love, to parents who loved and cherished you, and sent you to school so you can have a good education. They pushed and supported you as you progressed from elementary, middle school to high school and the fact that you are graduating today proves that you have achieved your educational goals. So academically, you are ready.

"Thirdly, are you ready spiritually? Since you were toddlers, you were taught the Word of God in Sunday school, youth groups and even at Faasao Marist High School where religion is part of the curriculum. You have selected a verse from the Good Book as your graduation theme and you have heard the clarification of that verse by your Commencement Speaker. So you are ready spiritually."

Governor Lemanu concluded his remarks by wishing the graduates all the best in their future endeavors and urged them to return home after achieving their goals and give back to their parents and community by serving in whatever field they will specialize in.

This was followed by the introduction of the Salutatorian and the two Co-Valedictorians.

The Class of 2024 Salutatorian is Wendy Lyn Lumanoq Parungo, a young girl who has the blood of a Filipino and the heart of a Samoan. She was born in American Samoa but raised in the Philippines and American Samoa. The family-oriented girl who values her roots is proud to have been at Faasao Marist for four years.

She thanked God for her achievements and acknowledged her parents, Wilson and Arlene Parungo who are from the Philippines but have been living in American Samoa for over 50 years, for their love and support. She graduated with an accumulative GPA of 3.997 and she will be attending Southern Utah University this Fall.

Also recognized was the third highest accumulative senior GPA recipient Ngaire Florence Elizabeth Cendrowski, a girl proudly representing her school, family, church and village of A'asu. She is the daughter of Joe and Ma'aka Cendrowski. Her purpose is to make her parents proud of her achievements and her lifetime goal is to find joy in everything she does.

After high school, she plans on starting her educational journey towards the medical field at ASCC and hopes to one day become a medical doctor. She thanks the Heavenly Father for His blessings upon her and  her parents for their never-ending support, as well as the rest of her family members who contributed to her success. She graduates with an accumulative GPA of 3.984 and is being recognized as a general excellence award.

The Class of 2024 Co-Valedictorian was Elizabeth Puputafea Tuitasi. She is the daughter of Te'etai Aoto'a and Sigafagatogo Su'a-Tuitasi of Malaeloa, Fagatogo and Tafuna. She is a member of the EFKAS Church of Malaeloa under the guidance of her Spiritual parents Rev. Elder Faigata and Rosapa'epa'e Aofia Fiti Manase.

Elizabeth attended Kanana Fou Elementary School and was the 8th Grade Class Salutatorian in 2020. Some of her high school accomplishments include being a scholarship tuition assistance recipient for the Marist Brothers Crusaders Alumni Association for three years.

She is the youngest of six children and she dedicates this achievement to her dear parents and family, especially her late brother and guardian angel Sailor E. Faamasani Tuitasi. Elizabeth is rooted to her faith and belief that obedience to her parents is a golden rule.

In her speech, Elizabeth thanked her parents, family and friends for supporting her quest for academic excellence. She also thanked her fellow graduates for all the memories they had made in the four years they spent at Faasao Marist, which they will all remember and cherish.

"My dear graduates, always remember the lessons or advice our school has taught us and the memories we made together and now cherish," she said. "Always rely on the Lord for with Him, nothing is impossible. Do not fear failure as failure is a stepping stone to more tremendous success.

The Class Valedictorian, Princess Jazzelle Franco Viesca was then officially announced. She is the daughter of Ringo and Jonas Viesca, granddaughter of Rolando and Diana Viesca and Susan Franco.

This year, Princess was the president of the Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA) and future Health Professionals. She is the Vice President of the Interact Club, pilot member of the American Samoa Climate Action Network. Her most outstanding academic achievement to date is her SAT score of 1,320 and ASVAB score of 93.

Her impressive record of accomplishments and accolades in national and international science and leadership competitions and symposiums where she represented American Samoa, began in her Freshman year right up to her Senior year. Her record has taken her to Hawaii, Los Angeles, California, Dallas and Houston, Texas, Nashville,Tennessee and Atlanta, Georgia.

The audience was even more impressed with the petite but confident Filipino, when she began her Valedictory speech in Samoan, quoting Psalm 19. "Ua tala mai le lagi le mamalu o le Atua, ua fa'aalia foi e le vanimonimo le galuega a ona aao," she stated. (The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of His hands.)

Princess continued in Samoan and greeted the Governor and First Lady, Congresswoman Uifaatali Amata, special guests, church leaders, parents and her fellow graduates.

She then proceeded in English and thanked her parents for their love and unwavering support, but was so overcome with emotion that she did not speak for several minutes, then with her voice breaking, she expressed her love for her parents in Filipino.

She also thanked her relatives abroad for their prayers, especially her grandmother who had traveled more than 5,000 miles from the Philippines just to attend her graduation.

Addressing her fellow graduates, Princess pointed out that time had flown by so quickly that it was just starting to kick in that they might not know the next time they’ll be seeing each other again after summer.

"Which is why I encourage all of you right now to look around to the people next to you and say, 'Thank you for the memories we shared together.' And to everyone I shared even just one laugh or smile with, I want to say, 'Thank you. You've made my stay at Faasao Marist High School memorable.'

"For those of us leaving home to pursue higher education, don't forget where you came from and where it all started. And finally to everyone, I want to wish you luck in your future endeavors. Despite not knowing what lies ahead, remember that as long as you commit to the Lord whatever you do, your plans will succeed."

Graduation Awards:

Academic Achievement Award — Princess Jazelle Franco Viesca

General Excellence Award — Ngaire Florence Elizabeth Cendrowski

Student Service Award — Faapi'o Pautonu Ve'ave'a

Paramount Chief Letuli Olo Student Leadership Award — Ngaire Florence Elizabeth Cendrowski

Religion Award:

Female — Wendy Lyn Parungo, Jaymie Lilia Godinet

Male — Epati Mandevania Huro Lilo, Vincent Laupola

Athlete Award:

Female — Saina Adi Willis

Male — Pio J.T.B. Talaga

National Honor Society Community Service Award - Angela Laquio, Ngaire Florence Elizabeth Cendrowski, Wendy Lyn Parungo, Melissa Jane F. Alamani

Football Scholarship — "Allan Hancock College Football Scholarship"

Abiel Immanuel Loa, Odysseus Ketarona Jr. Salave'a

College/ Universities Acceptance Scholarship 2024

Chelsey Javier — University of Portland Pilots First Award $8,000, University of Portland Holy Cross Scholarship, $104,000, University of Portland Catholic High School Success Award $12,000, and Southern Utah University Non-resident Founders Scholarship $55,264

Rosina Leitu Fepuali — accepted at Chaminade University, Washington State University, and Brigham Young University, with a scholarship offer from Southern Utah University Non-resident WUE Scholarship $43,252

Lynda-Ann Nomura —  Southern Utah University Non-resident Founders Scholarship $55,264

Anothen Fiti Tiaseuoleola Manase — Southern Utah University Non-resident Centurium Scholarship $22,000, and accepted at Southern Oregon University

Angela Laquio — Southern Utah University Non-resident Founders Scholarship $55,2 64, and UC Merced Western Undergraduate Exchange Scholarship $16,000

Pio Talaga — St. Martin's University Dean's Scholarship $100,000

Ngaire Florence Elizabeth Cendrowski — Southern Utah University Non-resident Founders Scholarship $55,264, and University of Hawaii, Manoa Academic Merit Scholarship $2,000