Xavier student lands summer internship on Capital Hill

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FOLLOWING early school closures in light of the global Covid-19 pandemic, Liekeila’akata “Kata” T. Iakopo found herself wondering how to spend her extended summer.

Being no stranger to philanthropy, Iakopo decided to work on a community service project, and found herself landing a summer internship at the Office of Rep. Ivan A. Blanco.

Iakopo is a Xavier High School of Micronesia sophomore who returned home to the CNMI not long after XHS president Dennis Baker, S.J. announced that the prestigious Jesuit school would be closing its doors due to escalating health and safety concerns.

“We were called in by our president, Father Baker. No one had any idea what he was about to share. Once Father Baker announced that we were cutting the school year short, everyone broke down in tears. It was very emotional. A lot of people were frustrated. Everyone was confused and crying. I myself was crying,” she said.

“Xavier really is home to many of us, and so, from a student’s perspective, we were heartbroken really. The staff did their best to reassure us that it’s not the end; it’s just a bump in the road, and as Navigators, we sail through rough seas, and we always go through [them].”

 Liekeila’akata “Kata” T. Iakopo is the new summer intern at the Office of Rep. Ivan A. Blanco. Photo by K-Andrea Evarose S. Limol

She said, “We…took it hard, but we knew that there wasn’t really anything we could do about it. Even the teachers were crying because they felt really bad, and now everyone is finding new schools because Xavier cannot open its doors to students outside of Chuuk.”

The school recently announced that it will only be open to students residing in Chuuk, and will offer satellite learning for its students outside of the state borders.

Known as the Home of the Navigators, Xavier High School sits upon Mabuchi Hill, one of the notable remnants of the Japanese administration.

The Jesuit coeducational school has produced graduates who have gone on to serve the Micronesian region in numerous capacities, including as presidents, ambassadors, lawmakers, doctors, and attorneys.

These include Blanco himself, Federated States of Micronesia President David Panuelo, Yapese master navigator Larry Raigetal, and Micronesia Conservation Trust Executive Director William Kostka.

Thrilled to be shadowing Blanco, Iakopo said, “Originally, this was just kind of something I wanted to get into out of curiosity to expand my knowledge of things that form and shape our community and nature. The Legislature plays a very big role in that, so I reached out to Rep. Ivan Blanco and asked if there were any open opportunities for me to take part in. He responded and we came up with this idea to have me on board as his intern.”

She added, “[Politics] plays a big role, especially [with] the youth because we look up to our leaders, and I feel like I just wanted to further understand why [lawmakers] do what they do, and how they do it. I think that’s my main drive for this.”

At the end of the internship, Iakopo said  she hopes that she not only serves the community, but also improves her communication skills and have an even more open mind regarding politics.

“Everyone has their own opinions and I think it’s important to understand [each other]. In short, I hope to improve my leadership skills and share my experience with my friends to encourage them to get more involved with our community,” she said.

With the 2020-2021 school year just around the corner, Iakopo’s internship will be for a minimum of four weeks.

When asked why she had chosen to leave the CNMI to study abroad, Iakopo said her inspiration came from her mother who also attended Xavier High School and has roots in Chuuk.

“I stumbled upon Xavier because of her, but I also wanted to visit our home island and learn more about the culture. I believe that Xavier just has a very different kind of atmosphere that you really cannot find anywhere else. There’s truly something special about Xavier, and I believe that everyone who has left Xavier, or has experienced what it is like to be at Xavier, will agree,” she said.

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