SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands--Soldiers, families, veterans, high school seniors and other members of the community gathered at the U.S. Army Reserve Center, June 26, for the U.S. Army Reserve Theater Support Group\'s first-ever Education Fair in Saipan.

Representatives from four universities were available to answer questions on topics to include distance learning options and various undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Additionally, representatives from Veterans Affairs, the Reserve Officer Training Corps, and both Coast Guard and Army recruiters were available to offer their expertise. Leading the effort was Marsha Wellein, Army Reserve regional director of education for the Pacific and Asia, and Dr. Donna Duellberg, U.S. Coast Guard education services officer for region 14. Duellberg and Wellein teamed up in order to maximize college involvement and make the opportunity available to the entire Saipan community.

"This is really a golden opportunity to learn about all of the options that are available," said Wellein. "People are eager for information. They want to know about the processes for the GI Bill and tuition assistance; they want to know how to use their benefits." Originally the Education Fair was only being hosted in Guam, but through strategically-coordinated efforts made by the Army Reserve Education Office, the U.S. Coast Guard Education Office, and the U.S. Army Reserve Theater Support Group (USAR TSG), the event was made possible in Saipan.

"After I became aware there would be an Education Fair in Guam, but not in Saipan, I asked my Army Reserve Director of Education, Ms. Marsha Wellein, about putting a fair together for our Soldiers, families and community members on the island so they could receive similar information from schools and the VA," said Col. Michael Phipps, USAR TSG commander.

"Ms. Wellein did a great job coordinating the event." In all, more than 170 members of the community were able to attend. San Vicente residents Alyssa Palattao and Shirley Galvan spoke to numerous schools and even an Army recruiter to gain a better understanding of what options were available. The mother-daughter duo was excited to learn about the various opportunities.

"I'd like to go to basic training now and then finish my studies while I'm in the National Guard or the Army Reserve later." said Palattao, who is currently double majoring in nursing and liberal arts at Northern Marianas College. "I'm just here to support her," said Galvan, Palattao's mother. "This is good because now she can find out more information and decide what she wants to do."

Relihna Iakopus, a recent graduate of Marianas High School, appreciated the college representatives for taking the time to answer her questions. "They give you more information here than what you receive normally," said Iakopus, who is planning to attend college here for two years and then look outside of Saipan for additional education programs. "They were really helpful with the applications process for college."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16