WASHINGTON – U.S. Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary, Insular and International Affairs, Doug Domenech and the Office of Insular Affairs (OIA) this week announced $217,594 in fiscal year (FY) 2019 funding support to the Marshallese Education Initiative for the Marshallese Resource and Educational Center (MREC) in Springdale, Arkansas, home to the largest concentration of Marshallese residents outside of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI). The MREC estimates that approximately 10,000 to 12,000 Marshallese reside in northwest Arkansas.
“The data shows that the Marshallese community in northwest Arkansas experiences high poverty rates, ongoing health and wellness issues, and low educational attainment, especially among the youth,” said Assistant Secretary Domenech. “This funding, provided by Congress, supports outreach to help decrease these discrepancies and to improve the quality of life for Marshallese families who live in the United States, and specifically for those in northwest Arkansas where such a large population reside.”
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, over 75 percent of Marshallese families in northwest Arkansas are considered low-income and 52 percent live in poverty, a figure much higher than the national average of 15 per cent. Incidents of Type 2 Diabetes in the Marshallese population is among the highest in the world with a range of 25–50 percent among adults, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2015. Among Marshallese youth in the Springdale public schools, a little over 50 percent graduate from high school and even fewer go on to higher education.
The Marshallese Resource and Educational Center is a non-profit organization that, serves Marshallese and other communities in northwest Arkansas with direct services, such as translation and notary services as well as advising on topics such as finances, housing, credit, lemon car laws, domestic abuse, and human trafficking. The MREC also collaborates with the RMI Consulate to support elders in the community. In addition, the MREC collaborates with the Springdale School District to provide leadership training and mentoring opportunities for students to increase graduation rates and promote success in education.
Under the Compacts of Free Association, Public Laws 99-239 (1986), 99-658 (1994), and 108-188 (2003) citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau are deemed legal nonimmigrants allowed to live, work and study in the United States without visa requirements for their duration of stay.
Funds for this program are made available through the Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs’ Technical Assistance Program.
The Assistant Secretary, Insular and International Affairs, and the Office of Insular Affairs (OIA) carry out the Secretary of the Interior’s responsibilities for the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Additionally, OIA administers and oversees federal assistance under the Compacts of Free Association to the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau.