Project HOPE Returns for Spring!

The Friends of the Mariana Trench (FOMT) are excited to announce that student registration has been extended to April 9th for Project HOPE (Healthy Ocean & People Empowerment), an ocean science program for CNMI sixth graders funded by a grant from the Administration of Native Americans (ANA) and made available through a partnership with PSS.  There is no cost for student participation. Registration is open through April 9th. Orientation will be held April 12th and is mandatory for all participants.  Learning will begin on April 19th.

Project HOPE learning sessions will take place weekly for approximately 8 weeks of activities. ENRO students together with ocean elders will work closely with outreach Specialists that will engage 6th graders in six-hour hands-on learning sessions every Monday at the Guma Sakman in Susupe. Students will also participate in a stewardship project of their own creation, which will span the duration of the program. Project HOPE will conclude with week-long ocean camp held June 14-18 in coordination with MINA and 500 Sails.

“The goal of Project HOPE is to make a crucial and complex subject like ocean conservation more accessible to our students,” said FOMT Executive Director and Project HOPE Director Laurie Peterka. “We believe that by creating fun, hands-on ocean science activities and incorporating local community members from multiple generations, we can help our students envision themselves as the CNMI’s next wave of ocean protectors.”

Project HOPE learning teams consist of Ocean Elders, college students and 6th graders. FOMT is pleased and grateful to acknowledge those who are continuing or joining us for our second cohort. Returning for a second round in our ocean elders circle we welcome back Antonio U. Piailug, Joseph A. Omar, and Frances Sablan and joining us for Spring will be Oscar Sablan and Tony Pangelinan. In support of our ocean elders, Project HOPE sessions will be facilitated by NMC Environment & Natural Resource Organization (ENRO) students Dhalian Alvarez Salas, Catherine Tanseco Calma, Eloise Lopez, Anela Duenas, Richelle Ramon, and Mathew Richardson.

“I want to thank PSS principals and science teachers for working diligently alongside FOMT to ensure that students and parents can easily register for Project HOPE,” added Project Coordinator Joseph Villacrusis. “Anyone interested in registering can contact FOMT or find the appropriate information and forms on the FOMT website.”

Inspired by the desire to improve our 6th graders’ ACT Aspire test scores, Project HOPE uses experiential learning to increase students’ understanding of experimental results, inferences, evaluation of models and analyzing data. Our weekly ocean science learning sessions also combine traditional cultural methods and STEM principles to promote ocean conservation stewardship; local elders with a lifetime of ocean expertise participate in ocean science activities right along with CNMI 6th graders.

Weekly engagement sessions as well as the ocean camp are structured with appropriate social distancing protocols in place to protect all participants’ health as much as possible. Our COVID-19 protocols are based on CDC, CHCC Public Health and PSS guidelines. These guidelines worked well in our Fall session and we are confident that they will continue to serve the needs of our program, especially protecting all the individuals involved.

Because the global outbreak of COVID-19 prevented FOMT from initiating the program in Spring 2020 as planned, the Project HOPE Fall 2020 program was open to 7th grade students (SY 2019-20’s 6th graders) and our Spring 2021 program is for 6th grade students.

You can obtain information from your school’s principal or contact Joe Villacrusis at (670) 483 – FOMT (3668). For more information, you may also visit our website at or email us at