HONOLULU -July 21, 2008- Senator Mike Gabbard just returned from the 25th Annual Pacific Educational Conference (PEC) in Pago Pago, American Samoa where he delivered the keynote speech during the opening festivities on July 14th.

Gabbard said, "As a life-long educator and native of American Samoa, it was a great honor to come back and speak at the 25th anniversary of the PEC. My speech focused on Kapolei High School's Career Academies and the Malama Learning Center. Both of these exciting Kapolei-based programs can be tweaked and replicated to help improve education all over the Pacific Islands."

PEC, the largest educational conference in the Western Pacific, brought together close to 1,000 participants during the July 14–17 event. Past hosts for the PEC include Hawaii, Guam, Saipan, Pohnpei, Palau, Marshall Islands, Chuuk, and Rota. The PEC was co-sponsored by the American Samoa Department of Education, American Samoa Community College, and the Pacific Resources for Education and Learning. The theme for this year's PEC was The Pacific Child: A Legacy of Community, Culture, and Art.

Senator Gabbard was born in Leloaloa, American Samoa in 1948 and lived in American Samoa from 1971-1983. During this time, he taught at Faga’itua and Samoana High School, and served at American Samoa Community College as a guidance counselor, Assistant Dean of Instruction, and Dean of Adult and Community Education.

Upon returning to Hawaii, Senator Gabbard commented, "You know, every election year, we hear politicians talk about improving our schools. But it’s time, we start walking the talk and do what needs to be done to help our children be, who and what they want to be. If American education is in crisis, as many people think, then it’s time for us to get serious about making improvements. If we want our children of the Pacific to grow up knowing who they are, and be well-rounded citizens who actively contribute to their communities, why not start with paying teachers a decent wage, so they don’t have to get two part time jobs to make ends meet."

Senator Gabbard represents District 19, which includes Waikele, Village Park, Royal Kunia, Makakilo, Kapolei, Kalaeloa, Honokai Hale, and portions of Waipahu and Ko 'Olina. For more information, please contact Senator Gabbard's office at 586-6830.

At the conclusion of the 25th Annual Pacific Educational Conference, Senator Mike Gabbard was presented with a commemorative plaque from (L to R) Dr. Thomas Barlow, the President and CEO of the Pacific Resources for Education and Learning, and Dr. Claire Poumele, the Director of the American Samoa Department of Education.