Ms. Nathaida Moea'i, a staff member at the American Samoa Community College (ASCC) departed the Territory this week to spend six weeks in the Marshall Islands as a participant in "Navigating Student Success in the Pacific" (NSSP), a federally funded program to support teachers or students pursuing a B.Ed or higher who also have an interest in learning the skills to serve in an educational capacity students who are Deaf and/or may have severe disabilities. The NSSP will cover the cost of the 30-33 credits in Deaf Education and/or Severe Disabilities, books, airfare to College of the Marshall Islands (CMI), and a stipend over the period of four summers, beginning this month. In addition to her employment with the College, Ms. Moea'i is currently pursuing a B.Ed. degree with the ASCC Teacher Education program.
The College of the Marshall Islands (CMI) recently announced it has been awarded a five-year, federally funded $1.25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education/Office of Special Education Programs for the NSSP project, which will develop and implement two new B.A. level Special Education teacher certification programs to prepare Pacific teachers to work with deaf and/or severely disable students in their region. Based on the critical shortage of qualified teachers, the first NSSP program focus on Deaf Education and a second specialization program will focus on Severe Disabilities. These programs are intended to build capacity within Pacific jurisdictions by preparing high quality local teachers to educate local students who are deaf, blind, or who have severe disabilities.
The NSSP grant will fund one cohort of 20-30 student scholars from across the U.S.-affiliated Pacific jurisdictions that are specializing in either Deaf Education or Severe Disabilities. NSSP student scholar support will include: NSSP course tuition and fees, books/materials/ technology, and a summer living stipend for all scholars plus summer housing in the CMI dorms and round-trip airfare for scholars from Pacific jurisdictions. As part of the coursework taken to complete a B.A. degree in Education through CMI or other Pacific-based bachelor's program, NSSP student scholars will complete 30-33 credits in Deaf Education or Severe Disabilities over four summers.
The daughter of the late Sousa and Leuta Moea’i, Nathaida refers to both Leone and Faleniu as her home villages. A former student of Leone Midkiff Elementary and a 1997 graduate of Leone High School, Ms. Moea’i expects to complete her ASCC B.Ed. degree in spring 2018. "Since I will be focusing on learning American Sign Language, I wish to become an effective teacher who will help deaf children,” she said. “Deaf children are no different from regular students in a classroom. Children in the deaf community have dreams and they need encouragement and support to achieve those dreams. I want to help them achieve those dreams and realize that they are capable of greater things by helping them realize their potential and equipping them with the tools they need to succeed.”
A collaboration between the College of the Marshall Islands and University of Hawai‘i Manoa-Center on Disability Studies, the NSSP program accepted applications from qualified individuals in any of the US Pacific Territories. According to Ms. Tafaimamao Tua-Tupuola of the American Samoa University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (AS UCEDD), this is the first time an ASCC student candidate has ever applied and been accepted in a personnel preparation project. The AS UCEDD, a member on the Advisory Board for NSSP, notified ASCC students in the Teacher Education B.Ed. program of the opportunity. All candidates who successfully complete the NSSP program must teach in a classroom at least two years for every year of support they receive. A service obligation contract is required for every recipient.
Ms. Moea’i expressed her gratitude to her family, friends, and co-workers for their continued support and especially to Ms. Tua-Tupuola of AS UCEDD for bringing the NSSP opportunity to her attention and Mrs. Alofia Afalava (ASCC Le Bookstore Manager) for encouraging her to apply for the program. “I also would like to thank the ASCC Teacher’s Education Program for instilling in me the need to serve the children of American Samoa,” said Ms. Moea’i. “Teaching is a noble profession because it is the profession that creates all other professions.”