Jess Quitano | Ocean Elder Coordinator

Jess Headshot

Program Coordinator

Jessielyn T. Quitano is currently pursuing her Associates in Science, under the Natural Resource Management program at the Northern Marianas College. She is an employee, a student, and a mother to two little farmer girls. Jessielynn was born and raised on a farm in Asteo, Saipan. She enjoys the outdoors and is passionate about proper management of our natural resources. Initially joining HOPE as an intern, she now coordinates HOPE’s Ocean Elders and is involved in other areas of the Friends of the Mariana Trench.

Joe Villacrusis | Project HOPE Program Coordinator

Joe Villacrusis

Project HOPE Program Coordinator

Joseph Villacrusis, better known as “Joe” – worked professionally in the banking industry for over 7 years before becoming a classroom teacher with the CNMI Public School System for 11 years. Holds an Associates in Applied Science – Business Management and a Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition Science – Dietetics. Currently enlisted with the U.S. Army Reserves for 13 years. Participated in the 2010 Micronesian Games in Palau for the CNMI Men’s Basketball Team. Physically active in the community participating in events such as the Saipan Marathon and various running events, American Red Cross Walk-a-Thon, and beach clean ups. An entrepreneur running a small business, selling merchandise to help with ocean conservation and protection. Company name is Salty Skin Pacific, LLC.

Bekke White | Admin. Assistant

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Administrative Assistant

Rebecca C. White is from Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands. She is a Northern Marianas College graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management. She is the Office Manager for The Law Offices of Michael A. White, LLC. She spent the early part of her career doing collections and secretarial work before transitioning to Office Manager. The best part of what she does is being able to work closely with her staff in ensuring efficient office operations and optimizing workflow to better assist the office’s clients and debtors. She enjoys her role in the Office because it allows her to challenge herself professionally and personally by being task-oriented and balancing the duties and responsibilities required as the Office Manager, like dictations and transcriptions and administrative organization. Working with the Friends of the Mariana Trench Monument (FOMT) is a perfect opportunity for her to gain new skills and better improve her work experience.

Mike Pai | Accountant

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Born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, Michael has been a resident of the CNMI since 1983. He served two terms as the CNMI’s Public Auditor from 2008 to 2020. Prior to that, he was the partner in charge of the Saipan office of the international auditing firm of Ernst & Young. In his career, Michael has held various accounting, finance, and management positions in Hawaii and in the CNMI. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and is a Certified Public Accountant, no longer in public practice.

Joleen Salas | Executive Assistant / Project Coordinator

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Executive Assistant / Project Coordinator

Joleen Togawa Salas is a University of Hawai’i at Manoa alumni holding a Bachelor’s Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus on Organizational Behavior. After graduation, Joleen remained on O’ahu to work at nonprofit organizations that focused on youth development. Upon returning back to the CNMI, she’s found work in project management and now joins Friends of the Mariana Trench bringing along her passion for community development. Outside of work, Joleen enjoys an active lifestyle, from practicing jiujitsu, to gardening and learning how to spearfish.

Laurie Peterka | Executive Director

Laurie Peterka

Executive Director / Co-Founder

A 25-year CNMI business professional with an impressive history of concurrent community service through a wide range of local nonprofits. Laurie co-founded several local NGOs including Friends of the Mariana Trench Monument (FOMT), Island SK8 Society, the Northern Mariana Islands Volleyball Association, and the Pacific Ombudsman for Humanitarian Law. In the last 15-years she has worked closely with indigenous community groups and top-level leadership in six different countries throughout the Pacific Islands in establishing various marine protected areas. In addition to being FOMT’s current volunteer Executive Director, she is a founding member and largely responsible for driving the FOMT projects accomplished during 2017-2020. For the last 14 years, Laurie has actively engaged in analyzing and problem solving for nonprofits and curating solutions through grant proposal writing, grant management, organizational development and capacity building. Laurie is a graduate of Northern Marianas College and holds a Bachelor of Science in Management degree from University of Phoenix.