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Dededo students given chance for success

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - Tucked away in the island's northern end, Machanaonao Elementary School reaches out to some of the island's most poverty-stricken children. Despite not having adequate resources or the highest test scores, the governor and lieutenant governor learned today that educators there are going above and beyond to educate their students giving them a fighting chance at success in the future.

Despite a student population of approximately 500, 90% of which qualify for free and reduced lunches and 64% participating in the English As A Second Language program, Machanaonao Elementary School staff and faculty aren't letting the challenges hold them back from ensuring students are being taught. Principal Robert Malay said, "We have very challenging demographics, but we've got a dynamic team and I've been saying it all school year, we have an all star teaching case and there's no question about it."

Malay called his school "one of the best kept secrets in the Department of Education", telling the governor and his staff who visited the Yigo campus today that they are making headway in teaching students despite the difficulties. Machanaonao Elementary School teachers have created success stories and shared with Administration officials the challenges their students and their parents face on a daily basis.

Teacher Krystal Flores said, "This is our challenges daily and it affects everything we do, down to the decision of what am I sending for homework what kind of projects can I ask these parents to complete with their kids because if I send a kid home with a picture of a turkey and ask them to decorate it with things from home they don't have those kinds of things."

You see, many of the students who attend Machanaonao live in the Gill-Baza and Zero Down Subdivisions. Many of the students are forced to walk half a mile down an often muddy and pothole ridden road lined with trash just to get to the bus stop or walk to school. Staffers say the families struggle with sending their kids to school to get an education and ensuring there's food on the table every day.

"The parents here want their kids to have an improved station in life they want them to move past living in a wood-and-tin structure with a tarp roof and packed dirt floor with no indoor plumbing," Flores added.

"Just this school alone, we're not comparable," noted another teacher, Maria Duque. "We're not the same. This school is the trenches. That's what we always say.  If a teacher can do Machanaonao any school after this is a piece of cake." She asked the governor and his staffers to take a closer look at the situation at the school and recommended that the Guam Education Board and superintendent realize that some decisions and mandates cannot be imposed for every school.

"Sometimes when there's certain laws or whatever decisions are made by the board it actually hurts us because our families can't do it our teachers don't have it, and the kids can't," she said.

The governor assured the faculty and staff that he would have public works follow up on funding to fix the road leading to the Zero Down and Gill-Baza Subdivisions. He also said he would have other government agencies look to set up some sort of satellite offices at the school for various public services that could help the impoverished students and their families in the area.

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