Mikayla Datu

The Best Part About Growing Up On A Tiny Island In The Pacific

Living on Guam is literally like living in paradise with a huge family

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I am often asked what Guam is like, or where it even is. Let me start by saying, "Hafa Adai" ("hello" in our native language). I chose to start with these words because Guam is a small island in the Pacific that welcomes everyone with that warm greeting. I have grown up knowing that it does not matter how small an island is. With a lot of support in the community and having close ties with family, anything is possible.

It is fascinating how the community around us plays a huge role in shaping who we become. Despite the fact that I am not Chamorro, I grew up knowing Chamorro formalities and values. It is customary to show respect to everyone, no matter who they are, especially elders. Whether it is a birthday party, community service, or a fundraiser, I was always taught to help out. From setting up to cleaning up, everyone is involved.

Living on Guam is literally like living in paradise with a huge family. There is always something going on every weekend, and whether it’s a party, small barbecue, or even a soccer game, it is always fun. What I learned from living on Guam is that everyone treats each other like family. Even if you aren’t related, you call adults “auntie” or “uncle.” Everyone takes care of one another as their own blood, and I think that is the most distinctive thing about being from Guam.

Mikayla Datu

Tumon, Guam.

Mikayla Datu

My family, with my boyfriend, Rai.

I remember one night, my sister was extremely sick and we had to take her to the hospital, but my dad was deployed. It was midnight and I had to call Rai, my boyfriend, to drive us to the hospital because my mom had to attend to my sister, who was in so much pain. When he arrived at our house, my sister could barely get up, so he carried her out of the house and into his car. He stayed the night at the hospital with us until 8 a.m. even though we had school the next day. His parents were very understanding and concerned about my sister. In that moment, I realized how lucky we were to have such a close-knit relationship with a family that wasn’t even our own blood. It wasn’t just because Rai is my boyfriend; it’s because living on Guam, it was already instilled in him to help out as much as he can, whenever he can.

I have three best friends, named Nathaniel Cosico, Nathaniel Santos, and Jace Santos. We have no blood relations at all, but somehow our families have become closer than some of my blood relatives who live here. People normally spend Christmas, Thanksgiving, and birthdays with relatives, but we usually spend these occasions at one of my best friends’ houses. They are so much like family to me, and that is one of the many things I am grateful for since living on Guam. This island is seriously a place where friends become family, and family is the most important value in our culture. Although we live on a small island, we have so much pride in where we come from. I am constantly reminded to never forget my roots, which makes me enjoy sharing my Filipino heritage with others.

Mikayla Datu

Me and Rai.

Coming from a family with supportive parents that value education as a top priority, I was always enrolled in schools and classes with rigorous education. Even though my parents constantly bugged me about focusing on my studies, they highly encouraged me to join every activity that I gained interest in. I was influenced to lead a well-balanced life with academics and extracurricular activities.

Between dance classes, choir rehearsals, student government meetings, National Honor Society services, sports, and schoolwork, I still managed to have time for my friends and family. My family is not wealthy, but because of my parents' hard work, it seemed like we were. I have learned from them that nothing will ever just be handed to me, so that is why I work hard to reach my goals and dreams regardless of any obstacles that come my way. I understand that struggles will always be thrown at me, but I was taught to never give up, and I will continue to never give up.

Mikayla Datu

Vivace performance with my best friend and drummer, Auriene Perez.

Mikayla Datu

JFKHS senior class of 2016.

Considering that I have spent most of my life on Guam, I feel that now is the time for me to undertake new experiences. Since I am the oldest in my family, I am invariably expected to be the best. I work extremely hard in school and aim to be at the top in every activity I engage in. Because I will be the first person in my family to actually attend a college off-island, I want the opportunity to share my ideas, talents, and capabilities with the rest of the world. I am always reminded that wherever I end up, I should always remember where I came from and how I was brought up so that I can continue to share that same respect and hospitality with the rest of the world. Admitting that I will miss the "Hafa Adai" spirit on Guam, I hope that this university will welcome me with that same spirit.

Mikayla Datu