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High schoolers host interactive senatorial debate

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by Jason Salas

Guam - A landmark political event was held this morning in the island's northernmost village, as candidates seeking office in the Guam Legislature interacted with students from around the island - all at the same time - by way of a revolutionary new format that changed the dynamics of how politicians engage with their constituents. A new generation of Guamanian citizens directly spoke to the people that want to serve them, bringing the issues most important to their peers to the stage and holding incumbents accountable.

Students at Simon Sanchez High School organized and hosted the first installment of the two-part "New Millenials Senatorial Debate" this morning. And what made the event such a milestone was that while the participating candidates fielded questions from students at the Yigo campus, all four other public schools joined-in live online and interacted with the candidates via Google Hangouts.

The multiuser videochat session brought-in student representatives from JFK, Southern, GW and Okkodo - all remotely and all in real time. The debate was broadcast live on YouTube, and is archived for on-demand streaming in case you missed it.

Joe San Agustin told attendees, both in real life and via the Internet, "When we talk about education, for the past 6 years, students, I've represented every represented you, students, and fought for every single thing that you need in your school."  And incumbent Sam Mabini added, "I ran for senator, and I'm running again for senator for my concern about you, your education, and your future."

Candidates making the trip were Republican Senators Mabini, Chris Duenas, Aline Yamashita, Tony Ada; along with San Agustin, Frank Gumataotao, Mike San Nicolas, and Frank Aguon, Jr. for the Democrat Party.

A notable inquiry was made from JFK students about future support for the performing arts with the closing of the GATE Theater in Tiyan. "I believe that the governor just signed $3 million-plus for the Fine Arts Center down at Southern to be renovated," said Senator Ada. Yamashita chimed in with, "We need to partner with those organizations who can best take care of our facilities...we really need to make a priority the intelligence of art. Art is Guam's natural intelligence."

Another poignant question was asked by participants from Okkodo High, asking the candidates how they planned to accelerate job growth. "We need to make sure that the industries that are employing our people are paying enough so that they are earning a living so that they can stay on Guam rather than leave the island," San Nicolas speculated. 

"We need to make sure that we do everything we can to make sure the economy starts to grow, and the best way to do that is to get the government balanced," Gumataotao stated. "If the government starts to live within its means, then everything starts to correct itself to an extent."

The New Millenials Senatorial Debate series concludes with another session tomorrow again up north at Sanchez High.

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