U.S. Interior Assistant Secretary Insular and International Affairs Doug Domenech has authorized a payment of $900,000 for FY 2018 to fund the Close Up Insular Area Program. This year’s program will bring approximately 190 high school-aged students from American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as the freely associated states of Micronesia, Marshall Islands and Palau, to Washington, D.C., for civic education programs alongside their peers from the 50 states. Funding would also support an additional 240 students participating in youth summits across the island areas.
“The goal of this program is to highlight models of American democratic institutions and to foster in youth the interest, knowledge and skills needed to effectively participate in a democracy,” said Assistant Secretary Domenech. “Bringing the students from the islands allows them to have critical exchange and sharing experiences with students from the States.”
The Close Up Insular Area program was first funded by the U.S. Congress in 1987 when House and Senate Appropriations Committee leadership decided to support students from the then-recently dissolved Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. The program was expanded to include American Samoa and later the U.S. Virgin Islands. For the past 30 years, Close Up has brought nearly 10,000 students and educators from the U.S. Territories and the freely associated states, to the Washington, D.C., area to see and study first-hand democratic institutions such as Congress, the Executive and Judiciary branches, Embassy Row, the Pentagon, Quantico, Mount Vernon, Monticello and more.
In addition to the Washington-based programs, Close Up groups have also visited New York City and Philadelphia, and they have held youth summits in the respective island areas, providing opportunities for students to learn about and develop policy recommendations related to issues being addressed by local legislatures. The program also provides civic courses and training material for island area educators during the Washington, D.C. trip.
The program continues to be widely supported by the Congressional delegates and Ambassadors of the freely associated states who represent the island areas served; it is supported through the Technical Assistance Program of the Office of Insular Affairs in the Department of the Interior.
The secretary of the interior is responsible for coordinating federal policy with respect to the territories and freely associated states, administering and overseeing U.S. Compact federal grants provided. The assistant secretary executes these responsibilities through the Office of Insular Affairs.