Northern Marianas College partners with innovative national award-winning youth preparedness initiative, MyPI National

Instructors practice fire supression

MyPI instructors practice fire supression

This week in Agana Heights, Guam, the initial delegation of instructors within the Northern Mariana Islands Youth Preparedness Initiative, MyPI NMI, completed a comprehensive certification and training workshop led by the MyPI National Coordination Team, and became the twenty-fifth program to train instructors under the national project umbrella.  According to Tayna Belyeu-Camacho, the MyPI NMI Program Manager, and who serves as Program Leader for the Family, Community, and Youth Development (FCYD) program at Northern Marianas College, “As an educator, I believe it is critical to actively engage youth at all levels and provide them with the opportunity to take leadership roles.  The design of the MyPI program allows the youth to actively participate in their community by providing important and necessary content along with applicable emergency preparedness skills.  Added Belyeu-Camacho, “Our islands were devasted by two typhoons - Typhoon Souldelor in 2015 and Super Typhoon Yutu in 2018. Many families lost their homes; some are still without homes. With climate change, the frequency and intensity of storms are inevitable. I believe the MyPI program will enhance our youth's abilities to be prepared and confident in disasters and emergencies. Thus, strengthening their sense of civic responsibility and connectedness to the island community.  Simply put, this program will have a life changing impact on teens and the community.” 

Over the next 19 months, MyPI NMI will be offering this innovative and engaging youth preparedness program to teens who will assist families and communities in a variety of locations throughout CNMI.  This program, based on a national award-winning model developed and delivered in Mississippi through the Mississippi State University Extension Service and Mississippi Citizen Corps, enhances individual, family, and community preparedness for disasters, while at the same time, strengthening youth leadership, communication skills, teamwork, decision making, self-esteem, civic responsibility, and empowerment, along with family communication and cohesion. “The underlying missions of MyPI National are to reboot youth preparedness across our states and territories, to capitalize on the energy of our teens, and to set the new standard for how we engage our teens in sustainable preparedness endeavors as we move forward in the face of a variety of threats and hazards that we continue to see on seemingly a daily basis, regardless of geographic location.  From the large urban areas to the smaller rural towns and villages, emergencies and disasters do not discriminate.  We have seen fantastic success for many years in Mississippi and have begun to see the same impact within our partners under the MyPI National umbrella.  As our MyPI National team works with MyPI NMI instructors, we will continue the process of fostering relationships and networks that will hopefully ensure the success of this program for years to come, which is yet another very achievable outcome and one that these great citizens, families, and communities deserve,” said Dr. C. Ryan Akers, MyPI National Project Director and MyPI Mississippi Program Coordinator.

Mississippi Citizen Corps State Program Manager and Lead Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Instructor for MyPI National, Dave Nichols, added, “I am very grateful for the opportunity that we had to visit Saipan before the training this week.  While I marveled in the natural beauty of the island, I was also reminded of the rural and remote characteristics as well which can obviously impact preparedness, response, recovery, and resilience.  To be on a small island, it hit home just how important the life skills that we teach in MyPI are invaluable.  I know that the youth and the entire population of CNMI will benefit greatly from the implementation of the award-winning MyPI model in this beautiful part of the world.  I look forward to the difference that this first group of instructors will make in their citizens’ lives.”                        

MyPI NMI is a component of the National Youth Preparedness Initiative, MyPI National, a partnership of 29 states and 3 US territories.  MyPI National Phase 1 began by delivering the MyPI model to teenagers across Nebraska, Hawaii, New Jersey, Washington, Illinois, Tennessee, Virginia, and Mississippi.  In September of 2017, MyPI National was awarded the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Individual and Community Preparedness national award for “Outstanding Achievement in Youth Preparedness.”  Capitalizing on program success and momentum, MyPI National began a Phase 2 expansion of the program which enabled the inclusion of Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Arkansas, South Dakota, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Arizona, and Colorado.  In 2018, in addition to winning FEMA’s national CERT award for “Preparing the Whole Community”, MyPI National received additional federal funding for a Phase 3 expansion that added Alaska, California, Delaware, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, South Carolina, Iowa and three US territories to be represented, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In 2019, the MyPI model was recognized with the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents’ Citizenry in 4-H Youth Development national award, it’s fourth national award in five years.

Regarding CNMI, Akers stated, “Our MyPI National Coordination team has literally travelled to all corners of the nation and now across the world with this project.  This week, we were excited to be back in FEMA Region IX, where we have been looking to increase our programmatic footprint.  I can confidently say that the MyPI NMI instructors have displayed fantastic levels of engagement, and motivation that is characteristic of our most productive partners.  We are looking for that definitive ‘zest’ and ‘passion’ to move these projects forward and that was the case here this week.  As a National training team, we always hope to entertain the level of discussions that clearly project the instructors are thinking long-term.  That was certainly the case this week and I believe this program has quite a bright future.  As the National Project Director, I can assert that this certainly makes administering this program and being a productive program incubator so much easier and more enjoyable when you have a cohesive unit that already has a vision for delivering MyPI.  CNMI teens, families, and communities are in for a treat on multiple levels due to the work of these great professionals and preparedness advocates.  Much like their colleagues across the nation, the instructors in CNMI truly exude a passion to change lives and to educate their communities, particularly their teens, through this program.  It was indeed a pleasure for the MyPI National team to be able to spend some time on Saipan, with its rich culture and welcoming citizenry, before we began our training on Guam.  This initial cohort of instructors and Tayna Belyeu-Camacho, the MyPI NMI Program Manager, will prove to be a great asset for our overall program goals and will guide the program with the motivation and zest that we have come to expect and that our program and stakeholders demand.  We are excited about this great partnership with Northern Marianas College, and we are already seeing a developing relationship between the program and the instructors.  We look forward to seeing the program become a true island-wide outreach campaign across Saipan, Rota, and Tinian.  It was quite clear among the National team members that once MyPI NMI takes root, it will progress and flourish in large part because of their efforts and dedication.”

Added Akers, “MyPI offers a tremendous, multi-faceted approach to youth preparedness with rich learning and leadership opportunities for teens and enhanced preparedness levels for families and communities.  There is a definitive focus and energy necessary as we move into the next phase of MyPI NMI, where the real work is carried out and the real impact is seen. On a personal and a professional level, I look forward to seeing these new instructors respond to the challenge and become the catalyst for positive change and impact across CNMI.  It is clear from this week that the instructors have a strong passion for disaster education and preparedness, the development of their youth and safety of their families, and the livelihood of these communities, which is wonderful to see.  Who knows when we will see the next Typhoon Yutu?  But we do know that it’s not a question of if…it’s a question of when.  The program that our instructors will deliver and the work our teens will do can provide an invaluable and perhaps life-saving service across these three beautiful islands and for their people.  We expect a positive impact for all involved and will continue to work with the instructors, the Program Manager, and community partners to ensure its success over the long-term.”     

The MyPI model offers a flexible 5 to 10-week, three component program.  In Component A, teenagers will complete the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency-certified CERT training and corresponding modules focusing on Disaster Preparedness, Fire Safety and Utility Control, Disaster Medical Operations, Light Search and Rescue, CERT Organization, Disaster Psychology, and Terrorism and CERT.  In Component B, the Add-On Catalog features certification opportunities in CPR and AED usage, along with a technology track comprised of awareness programs focusing on HAM Radio, NOAA Weather Radio, Smoke Alarm Maintenance, and Smart Phone App and Social Media in Emergency Preparedness.  The Add-On Catalog also includes a disaster simulation, a school safety/active shooter awareness program, an extreme weather awareness program, and a career track that focuses on public safety, fire service, and emergency management careers.  The final element of the program, Component C, includes a comprehensive family and community service project entitled PREP+6 in which each participant helps develop emergency supply kits and emergency communication plans for their family AND 6 additional families or households. This component allows for significant enhancement in individual, family, and community preparedness and resilience.  To graduate from the program, students must complete all components.   

Patrick Cepeda, CERT Coordinator for CNMI and a newly certified MyPI NMI Instructor, believes in the importance of teens engaging in community preparedness as a means of enhancing individual, family, and community preparedness.  According to Cepeda, “Youth are a big part of most communities and should be involved in these types of trainings and learning experiences so they too can be well informed and be a part of the response and recovery of any major disasters.  MyPI will also benefit and broaden their teens’ life experiences and expectations. This training also can help them cope with emergency situations even when adults are not around or injured themselves.  Students should certainly consider being a part of this vital program.  When disasters strike, it can affect everyone at any time and any place.  With the limited government resources that we currently have on our island, it is better to be able to assist yourself, your family, and neighbors before first responders arrive.  MyPI is the training that will teach you just that.”

Kelly Demapan, a classroom teacher at Marianas High School on Saipan, and a newly certified MyPI NMI instructor agrees with Cepeda.  According to Demapan, “Regardless of what you may think of yourself, we need you. Your family and community need you. The curriculum may be challenging, but I know your passion to overcome any obstacle is even greater. So, apply anyways. You're not doing this alone. You have a whole team that will be with you every step of the way.  Even adult instructors, we need you as well.  A community thrives because of our differences. We need instructors, like you, to help guide and educate our youths into becoming the future leaders of tomorrow. The specific skillset that you have will help open the minds of the youths to see the other possibilities out there. So please, come and help educate our youths on disaster preparedness for a safer and brighter future.” 

Demapan was initially attracted to the program as an educator because MyPI provides valuable networking opportunities, life skills, career exploration, and especially the focus on individual, family, and community preparation.  In my classroom, I am often asked, ‘Miss!  Is there another typhoon coming?!’ This question always comes up whenever there’s heavy rain or a dramatic shift in the weather. Because of the changes happening to our climate, it is imperative for the youth to engage in disaster preparedness. They are filled with brilliance, creativity, and passion needed to create changes in how we go about preparing for a disaster. The MyPI program will help guide these youth in enhancing their leadership, communication, and citizenship skills by helping families create disaster preparedness kits and communication plans,” added Demapan.

Fire Lieutenant Cody Norita, another new MyPI NMI Instructor believes in MyPI’s ability to enhance individual, family, and community preparedness and resilience.  “MyPI is beneficial for individuals, families, and the community because it is based on the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program. The difference is that with MyPI, the target audience is teenagers.  Keeping our youth involved in emergency response puts our community one step ahead.  This program gives the youth an opportunity to learn and grow.  They will have the skills to assist first responders not only after a disaster has occurred, but also in their everyday life,” added Norita.  Lt. Norita was attracted to MyPI because of the program’s comprehensive leadership project, PREP+6.  According to Norita, “As part of the program, each individual is required to complete a project that involves teaching how to prepare an emergency supply kit and a family communication plan for seven families.  In return these seven families will be able to teach their families and friends, and the numbers just grow from there.”

Robert Suzuki, Jr., Extension Agent at the Northern Marianas College Cooperative Research, Extension, and Education Services (NMC CREES) and a new MyPI NMI Instructor, strongly believes that MyPI can enhance individual, family, and community preparedness as well as youth preparedness.  According to Suzuki, “With the frequent natural disasters being caused by climate change, it is important that youth take part in disaster preparedness programs.  MyPI NMI will be able to prepare youth to help individuals and families across Saipan, Tinian, and Rota by being prepared for a disaster through the creation of disaster preparedness kits and communication plans. This program will allow youth to network with their peers and community while developing their leadership and citizenship skills.  We have seen frequent typhoons, earthquakes, and wildfires sweeping through our region. MyPI will allow the community to create or enhance their current disaster preparedness plan which would create a more resilient environment post-disaster.” 

Suzuki added, “For me, the most attractive aspect of the MyPI program is being able to identify and share resources that will help the individual, families, and communities become more prepared should a disaster occur.  Youth will be able to gain leadership skills by working with families and the community prepare kits and communication plans.  With PREP+6, our participants will go through this capstone leadership project that requires them to work with seven families, including their own, to create disaster preparedness kits and communication plans should a disaster occur.  This is important as we continue to see a rise in the number of typhoons that occur in the CNMI in a year.  Youth who complete PREP+6 will have helped individuals, families, and the community be more aware and prepared during a disaster. The capstone project will help students enhance their leadership qualities, communication skills, and civic responsibility,” added Suzuki.   

The partners in MyPI National are replicating the model created and delivered in Mississippi.  In 2014, the Mississippi Youth Preparedness Initiative was named FEMA’s national award winner for Outstanding Youth Preparedness program. It also received an Honorable Mention recognition for “Preparing the Whole Community.” In 2015, MyPI Mississippi was named one of the first entities to be named an official Affirmer of the new National Strategy for Youth Preparedness Education. As such, MyPI is an engaged and recognized component of a nationally supported, progressive approach to preparing youth for emergencies and disasters.  MyPI National is also recognized as an Affirmer of the national strategy.

For additional information regarding MyPI NMI, including areas that the program will be delivered initially, please visit the MyPI NMI website at and contact Tayna Belyeu-Camacho, MyPI NMI Program Manager at or 670.237.6841.  For more information regarding MyPI National, please visit the MyPI National website at or contact Dr. Ryan Akers, MyPI National Project Director at or 662.325.5914.  You may also reference both projects on social media platforms.  Facebook profiles can be found by searching “My PI Northern Mariana Islands” and “My PI National” respectively, and Twitter feeds can be found by searching “@MyPI_NMI” and “@MyPI_National".