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The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) joined the Pacific STEP-UP Program in 2011 with the aid of local collaborators Barbara Merfalen at Northern Marianas College (NMC) and Dr. Rita Sablan with the CNMI Public School System (PSS). The CNMI Local High School Summer Research Symposium was held for the first time in July 2015 and there are plans to hold this Symposium annually. Students who complete the program are asked to join students from across the country in attending the National High School STEP-UP Scientific Research Symposium in Washington, DC where they present their summer research projects to both peers and professionals from academia and the research industry. Additionally, a participation allowance is given to each participant upon successful completion of the program.





Charlotte Cepeda
Dean of Learning and Student Success
Northern Marianas College

Jackie Quitagua
Associate Commissioner of Education
CNMI Public School System



Dr. Alfredo De Torres
Northern Marianas College

Dr. De Torres is an agricultural scientist, policy and development management specialist, and resources development economist. He obtained his graduate degrees from the Philippines, United Kingdom, and United States. Dr. De Torres served as a professor at the University of the Philippines and as a United Nation’s Expert/Consultant in UNDP & FAO-UN for 10 years before joining NMC, chairing the Science Department. He now concurrently serves as the Natural Resource Management (NRM) Coordinator/Instructor and teaches NRM courses and Environmental and Physical Science courses. He is also the current Campus Coordinator for the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) in the STEM disciplines Program. He has teaching, research and development, and extension/outreach/community engagement services in both national and international programs. As part of his student support services program, Dr. De Torres initiated the “Environmental and Natural Resource Organization” (ENRO), a USDA/NCRS Department attached NRM Student Club.

Asapmar Ogumoro
CNMI Public School System

Mr. Ogumoro has been with the CNMI Public School System for 13 years and taught 11 years at Garapan Elementary School as a 6th grade teacher and Science Representative. He obtained his Education degree from Eastern Oregon University and a Master’s degree in International Education through Framingham State University. Mr. Ogumoro has been an active member of the Science Professional Learning Community assisting with STEM activities and curriculum discussions. He is currently the Public School System’s Science Program Coordinator and assists with the STEP-UP program as the local CNMI STEP-UP Coordinator.

Annette Pladevega
CNMI Public School System

Ms. Pladevega received a BS in Biology and a MEd in Education with graduate work in Microbiology & Molecular Genetics. She has conducted scientific research on an array of topics ranging from Group (A) Streptococcus occurrences in Hawaii to Dyslipidemia in Type II Diabetes to HIV treat using Rhesus macaque models. Most recently, she studied the effects of the Limestone Forests in Guam, Rota, Tinian and Saipan due to the Brown Tree Snakes. Ms. Pladevega served as a high school science teacher at Kagman High School and through Distance Education since 2009.

Velma C. Deleon Guerrero
Northern Marianas College

Ms. Guerrero earned her BS in Elementary Education from the Northern Marianas College (NMC) and a MA in Education from Framingham State University. She taught as an adjunct instructor in NMC’s School of Education from Fall 2006 through Spring 2008. In Fall 2008, she took on a full-time instructor position in the School of Education until Fall 2011, when she agreed to serve in her current position as Liberal Arts Program Coordinator. For the past two years, she also served as the acting department chair for Sciences, Mathematics, Health and Athletics department.


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