Republic of the Marshall Islands -- Students in the fifth grade at Ebeye Public Elementary School made an educational trip to Majuro in March 2022 with special assistance from the Ebeye, Majuro and Kwajalein communities.
The trip was envisioned by longtime Kwajalein logistics employee Carson Mejdrikdrik, the president of the fifth-grade class, section B, of Ebeye Public
Elementary School and the father of Tina, a fifth-grade student. Hoping to engage the students in a new learning opportunity, Mejdrikdrik imagined a class visit to the RMI capitol.
“I lay awake last fall thinking about this,” Mejdrikdrik said. “Why is it that only the high school students get to go to Majuro? Why not the elementary school students, too?”
If it could be funded, Mejdrikdrik believed the trip would be the first time an RMI elementary school class made such a trip. He approached the Island Memorial Chapel on U.S. Army Garrison-Kwajalein Atoll in fall 2021 with the class trip proposal. After reviewing the tentative plan, the church board was able to grant funds for airfare for all the students and their chaperones.
“Island Memorial Chapel has agreed to donate, a one-time ‘love offering’ of $12,810 to provide the airfare for 35 children and leaders, round trip to Majuro,” wrote Julie Makovec chapel administrative assistant, in the church funding report detailing the trip.
The church funds were paid directly to the Air Marshall Island offices to provide 35 airline tickets for the chaperones and students from the EPES fifth-grade class, section B.
After receiving news of the grant, Mejdrikdrik worked with the Ebeye and Majuro School systems, as well as numerous Marshall Islands national government officials, officers and helpful households to secure accommodations and a trip itinerary. Together, Marshallese families and communities raised more than $5,000 to support remaining trip expenses.
By travel time in mid-March, what had started as a dream slowly became a reality, as community members on Kwajalein, Ebeye and Majuro assisted in making the trip a memorable learning experience.
During the weeklong excursion, students and chaperones visited an array of sites, studying education, the economy and agriculture in the RMI capitol.
They began with a tour of Majuro school campuses to learn more about student life in the capitol, meeting with students and staff at Rita Elementary School, Delap Elementary School, the College of the Marshall Islands and Laura Academy High School. They also visited the climate activism workshop Jo-Jikum, co-founded and directed by poet and climate activist Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner.
While in Laura, the class visited the Laura Farm, a working agricultural facility and its associated greenhouse, pig farm and fields of lettuce, tomatoes, papayas and bell peppers. It was the first time the students had visited a working farm, Mejdrikdrik said.
In addition to site visits, distinguished members of the Majuro community opened their homes and welcomed students for discussions and meals. The class also met traditional and government leaders, including Kwajalein Sen. David Paul, Lib Sen. Joe Bejang and Leiroj Esther Zedkaia. One afternoon, the Capelle family treated them to a special luncheon. On another day, they discussed education over a meal with RMI Minister of Education, Sports and Training Kitlang Kabua.
“Minister Kitlang told the students, ‘Learn about everything you see, everywhere you go,’” Mejdrikdrik said.
At the National Disaster Council, students got an insider’s look at how the RMI government works to plan for and mitigate disasters with planning and teamwork. They learned about the functions of the national government and its affiliated organizations during visits to the RMI Social Security Office and Majuro Memorial Hospital.
The students were also invited to be special guests during a session of the RMI Nitijela parliament.
To his surprise, Mejdrikdrik was invited to address the gathering of RMI senators. He had not prepared formal remarks, he said, so he spoke from his heart.
“I explained about our trip,” Mejdrikdrik said, “and Sen. Hilda Heine addressed us. I was honored. She told our students: ‘Go to school. Go to school every day. Keep going, and someday, you’ll sit here in the Nitijela, too.’”
Mejdrikdrik hopes the trip will make an impression on the young students as they continue their education. He is grateful for the outpouring of support and welcome from the atoll community.
The trip meant something special to the extended to the Ebeye community, he said. As news of the travel grant spread, friends and neighbors would approach him just to ask to see the church award letter affirming funding. It was proof that his dream had come true.
The fifth-grade trip has also inspired other Ebeye parent teacher associations to consider new ways to engage their young students in meaningful learning opportunities.
“They’re asking now, ‘Why shouldn’t we also plan a similar trip for our students?’” Mejdrikdrik said.