In late October 2018, the Northern Marianas Islands were slammed head-on by Super Typhoon Yutu. Meteorologists said it was “Earth’s strongest storm of 2018,” with maximum sustained winds of about 180 miles per hour — so strong, in fact, that instruments measuring the winds gave out.
Directly in Yutu’s path sat Northern Marianas College (NMC), on the island of Saipan, home to the Beta Lambda Psi Chapter. Damage to the school was disastrous.
“(It was) absolutely devastating,” chapter president Aldebert (Abe) Deleon Guerrero said. “Several buildings suffered immense damage and will require at least a year or more to be fully rebuilt or repaired with the ability to withstand catastrophic damage.
“In addition to this, the students, staff, and faculty have also experienced major damage, as this typhoon dealt a major blow to our morale.”
The storm hit just as the Beta Lambda Psi Chapter was reactivating. Primary chapter advisor Kaelani Demapan, NMC’s Early Intervention Counselor and Early Admissions Advisor, had organized recruitment campaigns in spring 2018 to spread awareness of the chapter.
PTK Headquarters emailed eligible students on behalf of the chapter, and Kaelani followed those with messages listing membership benefits and reminding students of the acceptance deadline. The chapter also set up tables at campus events.
There were 42 new members set to join in 2018, but the typhoon put efforts on hold. Still, a resurgence was clearly underway — since 2015, the chapter had only added fewer than 10 new members each year.
At its upcoming induction ceremony on May 31, it will induct 118 new members.
“I am so pleased with the result of our recruitment efforts, and we hope that our chapter continues to grow,” Kaelani said. “More and more students have been inquiring about the honor society, which is exciting for our campus community. It now sits as the largest organization on campus.”
Marylyn Tabuena, an NMC sophomore and the chapter’s recording secretary, believes Beta Lambda Psi now serves as a symbol of hope and growth for the college, at a time when it’s needed the most. Nearly seven months after the typhoon hit, recovery for the college and its staff and students continues and will for some time.
But it isn’t slowing the chapter down. Members participated in the club fair during the first week of the spring semester, and in April they volunteered with the annual Marianas March Against Cancer.
And with so many new members being inducted this month, Marylyn sees more and even larger projects in the chapter’s future.
“The typhoon has affected a part of our lives and memory, which will live in each and every one of us,” she said. “Being a part of an organization such as PTK gives us an opportunity to redirect our attention and use that energy to be more active in our school lives and community.”
Chapter public relations officer Franklyn Santos sees the increased membership impacting the community in other ways as well. He became a member to practice his leadership skills, and now more than a hundred other students will have the same opportunity.
“PTK enhances the members’ leadership skills by giving them the experience to operate their own student body organization, and being involved and active in community projects is also one of the benefits of being a PTK member,” he said.
More members has also led to a need for more advisors. Working with the dean of student services, Kaelani recruited three additional administrators to step into advisor roles.
The chapter is now looking for spaces large enough for their chapter meetings, as the temporary classrooms only hold about 30 people. The induction ceremony is being held at the island’s Multipurpose Center.
Still, these are good problems to have, at a time when so much else is difficult.
“It has been awesome since the campus reopened to see students excited to get back into class,” said William Hunter, a new co-advisor and NMC Distance Learning Education Coordinator. “The challenges that they face and where they are at academically is something to celebrate, and the number of new members indicates that many of our students want to be acknowledged for their amazing accomplishments and definitely celebrate how far they have come.”