Sabrina (she/her) emboldens young Pacific islanders to be environmental advocates to save our ocean, protect our land, and empower our people.
How are you using education to build more sustainable and equitable communities?
My goal is to provide opportunities that embody the concept of place-based learning and encompass lessons that foster the importance of keeping the environment healthy. I aim to provide engaging activities catered to environmental protection such as: conducting coast and watershed clean ups, producing radio ads and infomercials for environmental advocacy, creating and maintaining community green spaces, and making compost. With these lessons and outdoor activities, the youth have a firsthand account of the effects pollution has on our land and our ocean. These extended lessons have empowered them with the knowledge that it is our job to make a change by being the change. Picking up thousands of pieces of plastic and Styrofoam in just two hours has shown them the value of properly disposing of their trash.
They have started to see the merit of green living and making more conscious choices like using reusable items instead of single-use plastics. Seeing my students being passionate about their island’s well-being is definitely an achievement in my book. One small change at a time, one little ripple, can have a gargantuan effect and I plan on continuing making waves for environmental advocacy inside and outside of my classroom.
Tell us about your journey to where you are today.
From a young age, I was taught to respect my land and ocean because they are our source of life. Our daily living and routines centered around cleaning up our family land and harvesting the fruits from the trees around us. My family name "Suluai" is a village chief title gifted to my ancestor because he worked the land and freely gave away the produce to the villagers of Pago Pago. Hence, I carry my family name with pride and aim to embody this gifted name. As such, my sense of belonging to my land was instilled within me at a young age and continues to grow. Once I accepted my role as an environmental educator and community activist, I started Finafinau, and I made it my goal to raise awareness and provide learning opportunities. At first, I was met with nonchalance, but with consistency, my community witnessed my effort to make concrete change. As a Pacific islander, I highly cherish the greenery of our land, the deep blue of our ocean, and the richness of our Samoan culture and I cannot remain idle while I see those values being put at risk.
A LITTLE MORE ABOUT ME
What (or who) keeps you hopeful for the future?
The youth keeps me hopeful for the future because they have so much passion and drive and I admire them for their willingness to learn. As a teacher, these are things that I value and I hope to continue witnessing their effort to progress in the next steps of their journeys.
If you were to choose one place to live for the rest of your life, where would it be and why?
I had to leave the island to realize it, but American Samoa will forever be my home. I grew up surrounded by lush greenery and the vast Pacific Ocean and there’s nothing that can ever compare. I have built my home on my ancestor’s land and there I will stay and raise my own family.
What are you happiest doing?
I am happiest spending time with my family. It doesn’t matter what we’re doing, from going to the beach or trying a new restaurant, I love being around those I love and cherish every moment with them.
What makes you most excited to be an EE30U30 awardee?
Coming from a miniscule island, I know that being an awardee is an extreme honor. As an Asian Pacific Islander, I have so much pride in my roots and I am beyond happy to have the opportunity to represent my island, my people and my culture.