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2019 Saipan Young Professional of the Year nominees

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(Saipan Chamber of Commerce) — The nominees for the 2019 Saipan Young Professional of the Year Award are Nicole Babauta (CNMI SBDC), Riya Nathrani (CNMI PSS – Hopwood Middle School), Le’ah Aguon Murphy (CNMI PSS – Koblerville Elementary), Jeffrey Bacani (CNMI PSS - Francisco M. Sablan Middle School), Matt Deleon Guerrero (Hive Analytics), Francisco “Sonnie” Sablan (INAS’ Kitchen), Kevin Bautista (Office of the Governor), and Marie Aldan (Staywell Insurance).

The criteria: (1) Must be a young professional; (2) must have worked in the CNMI for at least one year. Nominees were chosen by the Chamber Membership.

Matthew Deleon Guerrero is an economic research and data analytics consultant on Saipan. He holds a Master’s degree in international economic development and is an adjunct economics instructor at NMC.

Riya Nathrani is a seventh grade Computer Literacy teacher at Hopwood Middle School and an Education Technology Instructor for the Public School System with a passion for using technology, digital tools, and research-based practices to enhance learning. After receiving her Master’s degree in Education, she realized learning never stops and is currently pursuing her Doctorate in Education with a specialization in Digital Transformation. Riya has truly found her passion in contributing her skills to mold and inspire young minds and connect with young professionals as she devotes most of her free time to serving the community through volunteer work, civic engagement, and advocating for equal access to educational opportunities for all students.

Francisco “Sonnie” Sablan, born and raised in Saipan, attended the Western Culinary Le Cordon Bleu in Portland Oregon and worked as a Sous Chef at Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion in Chandler, Arizona. In March 2018, Sonnie opened INAS Kitchen where he is a Chef and Managing Partner. Through INAS Kitchen, Sonnie’s hopes to help the food industry develop at a scale to be enjoyed by our tourists and locals alike, promote the local food and infuse it with western and Asian cuisine, and to encourage more interest amongst young people to become entrepreneurs in the food industry.

Le’ah Aguon Murphy is highly effective educator of the CNMI Public School System. She is a service member of the community and an aspiring leader. Her vision for the people of the CNMI is to have a collaborative and creative learning environment to build a community of innovative, curious, and resilient life-long learners with a unique human intelligence through active partnerships among all stakeholders to prosper the islands in all facets of wealth.

Nicole Babauta has been the Administrator of the CNMI Small Business Development Center since March 2017, where her stellar performance has been recognized US-wide through her winning of the 2018 America’s Small Business Development Center State Star Award. Nicole is a graduate of the University of Phoenix with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Management with a concentration in Global Business Management and a Master of Business Administration Degree. She dedicates herself to the community by serving as a Board Member of the State Workforce Development Committee, Isla Montessori School, Marianas Young Professionals, Saipan Young Professionals, as well as holds active membership in the Society for Human Resource Management and Co-Chairs the Saipan Chamber of Commerce Workforce & Education Committee

Jeffrey Raymond G. Bacani is a Leadership Corps Instructor at Francisco M. Sablan Middle School. He has been an educator at CNMI PSS for 11 years and with the U.S. Army Reserves for 12 years. Jeffrey truly believes the saying “love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Marie Aldan is the Sales & Marketing Representative at StayWell Insurance. Over the last two years at Staywell, Marie has expanded their market reach by expanding a customer discount program, increasing their social media presence, and improving their relationships with their clients. A 23-year-old full time employee, student, and mother, Marie is currently continuing her education by taking classes online at Columbia Southern University for her Associates in Criminal Justice and Bachelors in Homeland Security.

Kevin Bautista is the Press Secretary for the CNMI Office of the Governor and the Secretary/Treasurer for the Northern Marianas Humanities Council. In 2019, he was the Public Relations Chair for the 2019 CNMI Liberation Day Festivities, organized by the Saipan Mayor’s Office and is a member of the Pacific Century Fellows – Marianas Chapter Class of 2019. A former intern at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in Washington, DC, he earned his bachelor’s degree in Political Science with minors in History and Asian/Pacific Islander American Studies from the University of Michigan in 2015.

The winners of these awards will be voted on by the Saipan Chamber of Commerce Membership from Wednesday Jan. 15, until Tuesday Jan. 21. For chamber members to vote, visit https://www.saipanchamber.com/whatsnew/saipanchamberawards

The winners will be announced at the annual Business Person of the Year Gala slated for Saturday, January 25, 2020 at the Regency Ballroom, Hyatt Regency Saipan from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Seats to event are limited and available for advance purchase only for $100 per person. Tickets include a formal sit-down dinner, networking, and a night celebrating the movers and shakers of our community. To order tickets, RSVP online at https://www.saipanchamber.com/our-events/, email Noelani at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., call 234-7150, or visit the Chamber office on the 3rd floor of the Marianas Business Plaza, Suite #315.

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