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Student leaders join together for Finafinau islandwide clean up

Students remove debris from along the shoreline of the Pala Lagoon
A great opportunity for territory’s schools to connect and collaborate
Source: ASDOE Secondary Education, Samoana High School)

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Finafinau, an islandwide community service project, launched the new school year with a collaborative clean up with student leaders from various high schools and from the local community college.

The clean up was hosted at Lions Park Saturday, September 12th with local partners ASCC Forestry Division and the Environmental Protection Agency. The purpose of the clean up was to promote youth leadership whilst encouraging environmental advocacy for conservation, preservation, and restoration

Starting at 8 in the morning, Finafinau led a clean up with a total of 176 student participants and 24 adult participants. The participants were students and advisors from Pacific Horizon, South Pacific Academy, Tafuna High School, Samoana High School, and the American Samoa Community College. There were also parent volunteers and members of the Slimmer Stronger You community who opted to participate as well. During this clean up, the youth demonstrated amazing leadership through their collaboration with each other and were able to collect four truckloads of trash from the park and coast area. The trash build up included a myriad of waste from food and drink products, discarded building materials, and even used syringes.

A group photo during the Finafinau clean-up at Lions Park, Saturday, Sept. 12. [courtesy photo]

Tafuna High School National Honor Society co-advisor, Chelei Pato, said, “I felt like this was a great opportunity for our schools to connect. Many times, we stay within the walls of the comfort of our own school and we forget about our friends and families outside of school. Our kids need more of these opportunities to get to know each other. My dad [Amkeo Pato] was always looking for ways to collaborate with different organizations and schools (he was an educator at heart) and I felt so much more connected to him during the clean up. It was an awesome day for all of our students!”

Finafinau student Vice President, Ann Villanueva, relayed, “We currently live in a world that is damaged. That damage is most likely to worsen each day due to climate change, pollution, littering, etc. As a part of the upcoming generation, I feel like it’s our priority to be the change and lessen the chances of us completely destroying our only home. Being a part of Finafinau is a great way to start. Finafinau helps individuals, such as I, practice cleaning & taking care of our environment. In addition, Finafinau also advocates sustainability and educates others about the damages we cause if we don’t go green or stop the habit of littering. We may be tiny people on a tiny island, but our contribution to the environment can mean a lot to the entire planet,especially if we influence a lot more people into being sustainable. As what the motto of Finafinau says, Save Our Ocean, Protect Our Land, Empower Our People.”

Some of the student leaders that took part in the Finafinau sponsored islandwide clean up Saturday, Sept. 12th, pose for a photo after a long day’s work. The purpose of the clean up was to promote youth leadership while encouraging environmental advocacy for conservation, preservation, and restoration. [courtesy photo]

With the grueling work, energy was kept up with the donations of food and water from various sponsors: Samu’s Ice Cream Shop, Ruby Red’s Cafe, Manu’a Chen, and the Army Recruitment office. While the participants regained their energy with these refreshments, the Finafinau team talked a bit more about how they, the youth, can make a difference in the community by first making a change with themselves.

Finafinau encourages sustainability and the reduction of waste by promoting the use of flasks instead of bottles, cloth bags instead of plastic bags, tupperware containers instead of styrofoam, etc. The Finafinau team shared with the youth that change starts with them and that they can make the change in their homes, their schools, their churches, and eventually, in their entire communities.

A young woman who participated in the Finafinau islandwide cleanup on Saturday, Sept. 12 displays screen wire found near the shoreline of the Pala Lagoon- Lions Park area. This is the kind of debris that is deadly to marine life. Partners in the event were the ASCC Forestry Division and the Environmental Protection Agency. [courtesy photo]


Finafinau was founded in 2017 and continues to serve the community through coast and watershed clean ups, school workshops, and tree planting. Finafinau is headed by a core team of community members: Kacey-Iloilo (EPA), Elizabeth Fano (DOH), Denis Sene Jr. (Land Grant), Siumu Faaiuaso (EPA), and Sabrina Suluai-Mahuka (DOE).

Finafinau encourages the student members to take charge and conduct a bulk of the activity planning and decision-making for the project. As such, students from any school are more than welcome to participate with Finafinau’s activities and all future events will be posted on the project’s Facbeook page.

Overall, Finafinau’s goal is to raise awareness of the environmental issues that are occurring locally and to encourage the youth to showcase more “green” habits in terms of minimizing pollution and promoting sustainability.