Island heart, global mind
Dr. Vidalino Raatior, the first Micronesian scholar to win APIA Inspiring Dreams award, seeks to strike a balance between Americanization and eChuukation
Dr. Vidalino “Vid” Raatior, an educator from the outer islands of Chuuk, has received the Asian Pacific Islander Scholars Inspiring Dreams award for his outstanding service to Asian, Pacific Islander American students in higher education. APIA Scholars is the nation's largest non-profit provider of college scholarships for Asian and Pacific Islander Americans and Raatior is the first Micronesian to receive such recognition, which was handed down during a September gala in the Atrium ballroom of the Ronald Reagan building in Washington D.C. Former Congressman and former University of Guam president, Dr. Robert Underwood, was the recipient of the Higher Education Award last year.
“Normally, my Micronesian value of humility makes me think that such personal honor is undeserved,” Raatior said. “But, today, I proudly accept this award on behalf of all of us who have this distinct privilege of advocating for our APIA community. I accept this award, not for myself, but for my fellow Micronesians at home and those who now call these United States home away from home; those who continue to inspire me with their resilience, love of their community, and service to others. In my culture, true success is judged by our collective success.”
Raatior said such award is not a validation for his passion to serve: “I already know I am passionate about inspiring Pacific Islander students to reach their dreams. I don't actually need anyone to validate my passion, but it is a good feeling to know that those who share the same passion for our community recognize my efforts. I have so much more to do for our community and this award honors the work I've tried to do.”
APIA Scholars is the parent organization for Asian Pacific Islander American Scholarship Funds, which “creates opportunities for students to access, complete, and succeed after post-secondary education.” The goal is to develop future leaders who will excel in their careers, serve as role models in their communities, and will ultimately contribute to a more vibrant America. Since 2003, APIASF has distributed over $100 million in scholarships to APIA students across the country and in the Pacific Islands.
“My views on education is rooted in my local experience and impacted by global resources. Having grown up in the northwest outer islands of Chuuk, I experienced the lack of educational resources out there. We did not know any better because what we had in our schools was, we thought, were adequate,” Raatior said.
After he went to college and struggled to catch up on his education and later became a teacher at Xavier High School, Raatior realized the inadequacy of local schools in the islands. “Having access to global resources and ideas, I want to share what I know with our islands to improve education there,” he said. “But I want to do it with a balance so that our schools out in the northwest must not only focus on educating children in the American school system, but also eChuukating our kids to appreciate our own indigenous knowledge, cultures and language. We must ensure that our schools are deepening who we are before we learn the American ways. Otherwise, we keep losing ourselves while gaining identities of others.”
Raatior is the project director of Science Education & Mentorship in Latino Lives in Academia at the University of California Santa Cruz. He is also the principal founder of Raatior Consulting and founder of the Pacific Focused Iniative aimed at advancing the success of Pacific Islander-serving organizations in the United States. He had also served as director of the Pacific Islander Student Center and the AANAPISI Project at the University of Hawaii at Hilo and a recently earned a doctorate in Education from UH Manoa’s College of Education. Previously, he worked for 10 years at Santa Clara University in California as the Assistant Director of International Programs Office and as associate director of the Center for Multicultural Learning. Raatior completed a bachelor’s in communications from the University of Guam and a master’s in educational administration from the University of San Francisco.
When Vidalino Jones first left his family and his beloved island of Houk in 1978, he kept two things in his heart: his mother’s advice for him to go to school and work hard, and his elders’ plea for him to come back home after receiving his highest degree and help out the underprivileged children of his home island.
Fast forward to 40 years later, the then chubby 12-year-old is now 52, a fit and dashing figure next to his smashing wife, Desha Raatior. But those were not the only changes in Jones’ life though. He had shed the Americanized name, Jones, in favor of Raatior, the island name of his grandfather who was a paramount chief and navigator.
Retiring from his passion is out of the question. “I don't know if I will ever be able to sit back and relax thinking that I've done all I can, because there will always be some other needs that have not been met within our community,” he said. “The Jesuits who formed my passion for service of others have really cemented the value of service in my heart for life. I am always looking for ways to support, serve, inspire, encourage, inform positive outcome for my community.”