In his short, yet powerful valedictorian speech, Sean Rios Rupley took the opportunity to help his fellow graduates realize their impact on the island they call home.
“Whether we realize it or not, what we’ve been doing is finding a way to make a better quality of life for our families, for our romantic relationships, for our friendships, for our workplaces and ultimately our community,” he said, “because what we’re doing makes Guam a better place to live.”
This philosophy guided the Communication and Sociology double major throughout his undergraduate years—surprisingly since his passion for youth-led, community-based change hadn’t fully blossomed when he first enrolled at the University of Guam.
But the seed was sown years ago.
As a seventh grader, Rupley began volunteering with Youth for Youth LIVE! Guam—a non-profit, youth-based prevention program—as a way to make extra money during the summer. Little did he realize that within the last ten years, the culture of community empowerment Youth for Youth taught would lead him on a path to change Guam for the better.
Rupley has held various titles over the years at Youth for Youth, such as Adult Advisor, Suicide Helpline Worker, Youth Conference Chair and more. He has also worked as an Americorps Member and Team Leader at Sanctuary Incorporated, a local non-profit that focuses its efforts on improving the quality of life for Guam’s youth. He now serves on its Board of Directors.
Rupley also joined the Governor’s Prevention Education and Community Empowerment (PEACE) Council of Mental Health Promotion and Substance Abuse Prevention, where he helps in efforts to effectively and strategically develop policies and programs for substance abuse prevention.
“It’s funny how you get into all these things,” he laughed.
But it wasn’t by accident.
Like his academic career, his choices of extracurricular activities were very intentional in his pursuit of inspiring youth to be catalysts for change in Guam.
Double majoring can be a difficult endeavor, but Rupley saw his degrees working seamlessly to help him achieve his goals.
“Taking sociology could help me better understand why our island is facing certain problems,” he said. “And now that I know what’s going on, I can use communication as the ‘how’—to inform the public and move from awareness to action.”
Rupley chose to attend UOG because of his firm belief in taking responsibility for improving your community.
“If UOG can invest in the future of the island, then I can invest in it,” he said. “Being at UOG helped me realize that there’s a need to invest in where you’re from.”
Right now, Rupley is working under the Rotaract Club of the Marianas as a contracted program coordinator for its Leadership and Resilience Program. Over the next few months, Rupley and a team of others will go into local schools and promote leadership and resiliency skills for youth.
In terms of the future, Rupley hopes to work with either a non-profit or government agency promoting youth and community development, but he’s also looking into graduate studies. But whatever he chooses, his goal remains to make Guam a better place.
“If I had to picture a Guam for the future, it would be a generation of individuals empowered enough to step up and address the island’s issues if not for yourself but for future generations.”