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Cook Islanders attend US-Pacific Institute for Rising Leaders Fellowship

Tuesday 3 October 2023 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Education, Local, National


Cook Islanders attend US-Pacific Institute for Rising Leaders Fellowship
Pekalani Fisher (left0 and Jackie Rongo (far right) at the Hyatt Hotel on Capitol Hill, Washington DC with other participants. SUPPLIED/23100212

Cook Islanders Jackie Rongo and Pekalani Fisher are in Washington DC attending the inaugural US-Pacific Institute for Rising Leaders Fellowship.

The two are among 30 selected across the Pacific region from government, non-government organisation (NGO), and private sectors to attend Johns Hopkins SAIS. The Institute will engage with these emerging leaders to hone their academic, leadership, and policy-making skills.

Rongo, who is part of environmental NGO Kōrero o te ‘Ōrau, said she took the opportunity to improve her skills because of the work she does in the community, but most importantly to show her students and children that learning never stops.

“I continue to pray that the youth of our nation will realise they are the key to our future, and to make better choices despite what is going on around them that they know to be toxic. It is also up to us as parents and those in positions of management and leadership to create opportunities for our youth, to do what we can to clean up the toxicity around them and be better role models for our tamariki.”

Rongo said that throughout the month of October, participants will learn more about maritime, climate change, and public health issues. 

These topics are closely related to the work that Rongo carries out with Kōrero o te ‘Ōrau as well as with the Rising Stars Championship for netball, rugby, and volleyball and the NGO representative on the Tobacco Control Committee with Te Marae Ora (TMO).

“It’s a great opportunity for me to meet professionals across the region in their respective fields, and learn and share about the different issues we’ll be tackling including maritime, climate change, and public health,” Rongo said.

“It’s also interesting to note how each Pacific Island country is managing the dynamics, the geopolitical dynamics happening across the Pacific region between the superpowers, mainly the US and China.”

Fisher, of the Cook Islands Chamber of Commerce, said they have a diverse group of proud Pacific representatives from the public and private sectors and she is looking forward to the academic portion of the fellowship to begin and hear from the experiences of Pacific and U.S colleagues.

“Personally, I am looking forward to the opportunity to connect with my Pacific colleagues as I am not one who usually ventures off island, and I plan on making the most of every learning opportunity we are afforded through the fellowship so I can then share to my networks back home,” Fisher said.

The US-Pacific Institute for Rising Leaders Fellowship a four-week leadership development programme. Both Rongo and Fisher will have the opportunity to meet senior officials from across the US government, corporate leaders and experts.