Guam Homeland Security/Office of Civil Defense 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 Guam Youth Preparedness Initiative, MyPI Guam, completed a comprehensive certification and training workshop led by the MyPI National Coordination Team, and became the twenty-fourth program to train instructors under the national project umbrella.  According to Jaimie Cruz, the MyPI Guam Program Manager, and who serves as a Program Coordinator for the Offices of Guam Homeland Security and Civil Defense, “For years, GHS/OCD has worked to partner with many other organizations to better prepare the people of Guam for disasters. When we heard about MyPI, we knew that we had to bring it home. While Guam already has robust CERT and Teen CERT programs, we realized that adopting a MyPI program would be a great opportunity to expand our reach even further.  In particular, the preparedness aspect of MyPI will help us to spread awareness and teach basic life-saving skills that are necessary for creating a culture of resilience.”  Added Cruz, “the MyPI program will have a great impact on the whole island community because it will encourage our teens to take ownership of what they learn and be proud to share it with those around them.” 

Over the next 19 months, MyPI Guam will be offering this innovative and engaging youth preparedness program to teens who will assist families and communities in a variety of locations throughout Guam.  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 Guam 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, “It’s been a pleasure to be here on the island.  One of the many things that I have learned since being here is that Guam takes preparedness seriously.  I see MyPI complementing the already strong CERT program that currently exists.  I look forward to seeing how MyPI grows here and the positive impact that it will have on teens, households, and communities across Guam.  It will be in good hands.”

MyPI Guam 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 Guam, 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 Guam instructors have displayed fantastic levels of passion, engagement, and motivation that is characteristic of our most productive partners.  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.  Guam 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 Guam 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 here in beautiful Guam, with its rich culture and welcoming citizenry.  This initial cohort of instructors and Jaimie Cruz, the MyPI Guam 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 Guam Homeland Security/Office of Civil Defense, 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.  It was quite clear among the National team members that once MyPI Guam 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 Guam, 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 Guam.  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.  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.   

Lucia Perez, Broadband Coordinator and ESF-2 Telecommunications for Guam Homeland Security/Office of Civil Defense, believes that MyPI passes on skills and values that people of all ages can learn, teach, and apply to better their lives and their futures.  According to Perez, “My mother always prayed not for her children today but her future grandchildren because they have not experienced a disaster so massive that it paralyzes them.  I desired to be part of a team/program that can provide the teens of today the skills, knowledge, and capabilities so they WILL SURVIVE and not be a casualty of ignorance.  MyPI is a such a program that can benefit individuals, families, and entire communities – as a teen, you will learn skills that you will use throughout your life; for families, the lessons and engagement will help build family cohesiveness and help provide the glue that makes the family stronger; and finally, MyPI teaches all members of their community to be able to stand on their own, taking care of themselves and their neighbors.”

Joshua Samonte, an AmeriCorps volunteer for GHS/OCD, and a newly certified MyPI Guam instructor agrees with Perez.  According to Samonte, “the MyPI model emphasizes more of a familial mentality among the future pupils and teachers, which can and will have a profound impact on the lessons learned/being taught permeating through the other families.  MyPI undoubtedly has a profound impact on youth preparedness and youth leadership but is also influences the emergency management and first responder communities as well.  “Our MyPI teens will gain an appreciation for the EMS/EM personnel, and possibly give them an idea of what kind of work they want to do when they get older.  The idea of teens taking ownership really sums the program up in that it empowers the youth to help/aid the EMS/EM personnel by engaging in preparedness and helping their families and their neighbors.  This program exposes, the inner workings and machinations of what it really means to have a whole community approach.  One of the many themes presented this week was that in reality, the government is only able to do so much in the immediate aftermath of an emergency or disaster – it is also the responsibility of the public and volunteers to be better prepared on their own accord and to actively engage in preparedness to assist their neighbors and in their communities,” added Samonte. 

Harmony Palaganas, another new MyPI Guam Instructor who also serves as a GHS/OCD AmeriCorps member, strongly encourages students and adults to take advantage of this beneficial program.  According to Palaganas, “Apply! This is a great opportunity to gain life skills, learn about disaster preparedness, become more a part of your community, and network with others.  Plus, it’s almost completely free and would look great on a college application.  If you fail to prepare then you prepare to fail.  Today’s youth are the future of our community’s disaster preparedness and should be ready and prepared for what will come.  Being a member of MyPI student allows one to gain life and leadership skills, and not only prepare themselves, but their family and community as well.  You become an asset to your community.  Similarly, becoming an instructor in MyPI is a great opportunity to contribute to your community in a meaningful way.  Not only will you learn more about disaster preparedness for your personal benefit, you will also teach others and be able to observe the difference you make in your community.  The program aspects that I find the most appealing are the tremendous learning and networking opportunities.  Through this program, people can connect with diverse members of the community to learn, share ideas, become disaster prepared and be involved within the community in an important way,” added Palaganas.  Perez also believes the program can have a rich impact on adult instructors.  “If you enjoy mentoring and believe in enhancing our youth’s lives through preparedness and leadership opportunities, then this is the program for you.  Your reward will be the knowledge knowing you have helped, not one, but many minds grow and have enabled many of our teens to better their lives today and for tomorrow.”

JeCarlo Palomo, AmeriCorps Director for GHS/OCD, believes that the inclusion and engagement of youth in community preparedness endeavors is critical to enhancing individual, family, and community preparedness.  According to Palomo, “The engagement of teens is absolutely important because they will be the next generation of first responders, while also taking their learnings home to their families and fostering by design a ripple effect of emergency preparedness, civic responsibility, and leadership.  I am excited to gain knowledge and training that will foster by design emergency preparedness, civic responsibility, and leadership in the community. Part of being prepared is being informed, and being prepared saves lives!  This program is can be a catalyst for that.  Palomo highlighted MyPI’s dynamic leadership component, PREP+6, and suggested that through this capstone project, they will be improving not only their lives in a multi-level effect, but a multitude of people around them as well.  Added Palomo, “PREP+6 will impact youth, families, and communities because it challenges teens and places responsibilities on them to actually work with seven total families, including their own.  They will be are preparing themselves, their own household, and other families to be more prepared and resilient, while also sharing on a base level all the new information they learned with their network thus creating a major positive impact on the entire community.” 

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 Guam, including areas that the program will be delivered initially, please visit the MyPI Guam website at and contact Jaimie Cruz, MyPI Guam Program Manager at or 671.475.9600.  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 Guam” and “My PI National” respectively, and Twitter feeds can be found by searching “@MyPI_GU” and “@MyPI_National”.