Blog Posts

JSA Senior Program Officer Travels to U.S. Territories and Freely Associated States

Ed Banayat Territories Flight
Ed in Guam

My role at JSA is to travel to the U.S. Territories and Freely Associated States once a year to spread the word about and recruit students for JSA's programs. This year, I departed on Saturday, Sept. 9, and arrived in Palau on Monday, Sept. 11, at 2AM. Excellent visits so far, 31 days into my trip. As always, I had a superb meeting with Palau Minister of Education Dale Jenkins. The meeting was crucial. The public school students have a year-round school calendar, and the Minister said that he will personally get the students excused so they will not miss out on JSA opportunities.

After Palau, it was off to Guam where I visited 10 schools, Guam Youth Congress (JSA Alum, Rachel Cho is the president), and Upward Bound. I visited all the schools in the CNMI (Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands). I had an impactful meeting with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Schools. This included a nice plane ride to Tinian, where it was me, the pilot, and co-pilot on the flight. Thankfully, the trip to the Federated States of Micronesia included the island of Chuuk, which was closed during my last visit due to COVID-19. The programs manager at the Pohnpei Department of Education was happy to meet with me as she is the parent of a JSA alum.

Ed Banayat U.S. Territories

So far, so good. Currently in the Marshall Islands. To date, I've visited 33 high schools, met with two Ministers of Education, traveled over 10,000 miles, been in 10 airports (not including Guam twice), and met with countless JSA alums. One of my favorite parts of my role is running into JSA alumni as adults and seeing the positive impact they are having on their communities. Two of the first CNMI students I recruited in 2014, Elizabeth Basa is a teacher at her alma mater, Kagman HS, and Defaustina Camacho is the Digital Equity Outreach Specialist for the CNMI Governor's newly created office, Broadband Policy and Development Office, "Working for better internet and digital equity for all CNMI residents."

Ed Presenting to Guam Youth Congress

I concluded my trip to American Samoa, where I continued to meet with schools, JSA alums, and key community leaders. I had coffee and meals with two JSA alums; one is a social science teacher at his alma mater at Tafuna High School, and the other alum works for the American Samoa Congresswoman. I visited several JSA chapters in American Samoa. I had a great time visiting with JSAers at Tafuna High School, Pacific Horizons, and Leone High School, to name a few. The principal at Pacific Horizons is a proud parent of two JSA alums, and the teacher advisor at Leone High School is a JSA alum.

Every year, I'm invited to 93 KHJ FM on John Raynar's Samoan Sunrise Show to share more about JSA's Civics Immersion Program at Stanford and the Department of Interior scholarships.

Listen to Radio Interview

Overall, this six-week trip always reminds me of why JSA exists. Running into and meeting JSA alums and hearing how JSA has impacted their life motivates me to continue doing the work we do for the students in the territories and freely associated states. We have incredible partners who can't wait for students to experience JSA's programming.

Well, that's a wrap! Until next year!

Ed with Pohnpei SDA


October 17, 2023