2020 Miss Northern Marianas Earth Maria Terlaje to pursue advocacy despite pandemic

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A GLOBAL pandemic will not stop newly crowned 2020 Miss Northern Marianas Earth Maria Lael Terlaje from pursuing her advocacy.

Terlaje, 19, advocates for “love and respect for the island by restoring humility…and implementing preservation and conservation to protect our environment.”

She said she joined the 2020 Miss Northern Marianas Earth pageant with the hope that it would give her the platform to advance her aspiration as an environmental ambassador.

“I am very grateful. I am so blessed being crowned as Miss Northern Marianas Earth,” she said.

Maria Terlaje

Winning the crown, Terlaje said, validated her purpose and it gives her the opportunity to implement her plans.

“I had a vision to make a difference by inspiring and educating the youth of the CNMI so they can build interest and passion to preserve and protect Mother Earth and make a better CNMI for future generations,” Terlaje said.

“The pandemic gave us the opportunity to step back and see what is going on in our community and take action accordingly. For me, you will see me on the beaches — cleaning, picking up trash and educating people,” she said in a phone interview.

She said the directives on social interaction and social distancing may limit her work, but she will take her advocacy through social media.

She said she will be active in sharing information about the environment and she is always ready to participate in virtual meetings with students who are interested to learn about the environment. “I will also actively go to the community to organize and participate in  beach cleanups, tree planting or any event that promotes our environment.”

Terlaje won the 2020 Miss Northern Marianas Earth title on Sept. 19, Saturday.

On Monday, she started participating in the pre-pageant activities for the Miss Earth international pageant, which will be held virtually.

For the past 19 years, the environmental advocacy-based pageant was held in the Philippines.

But because of the ongoing pandemic and travel restrictions in the Philippines, the organizers opted to hold the competition virtually.

The pre-pageant activities will run for two months, starting on Sept. 21.

The finale and coronation night will be held on Nov. 29, which will be live-streamed on social media.

Terlaje said it will be the same process that they have gone through at the local level in which various portions of the competition, such as Q&A, presentations of native costume, evening gown, swimsuit and others were done virtually. The contestants’ photos and videos were also uploaded on the organizer’s Facebook page.

“As of now, I am practicing my walk,” Terlaje said. “I am also doing research and gathering more information to equip myself with more knowledge in implementing my projects for the Marianas that I will present during the international pageant.”

Although she will not be able to meet personally the other environmental queens from around the world, Terlaje expects to learn from them through their projects. “I expect that somehow I can meet these women who also want to make a difference.”

Terlaje is a student at Northern Marianas College where she is pursuing a degree in social work. “I want to give back to the community by helping those in need,” she said.

She is a Class of 2019 AlumKnight of Mount Carmel School from where she graduated with honors.

Terlaje’s environmental work includes volunteering for the Micronesia Islands Nature Alliance.

She also worked as an intern for the Division of Coastal Resources Management.

“During my internship, I learned the significance of preserving our natural resources —  our land and our sea,” she added.

She is also an NMC enrollment service ambassador who reminds high school students about the importance of education after high school, and why they should “Start Smart” at the local college.

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