Former Yigo resident Tom Sniff finds Micronesian connection in Arkansas | Lifestyle

Nestled in the Ozark Mountians near the border with Missouri and Oklahoma, the small city of Springdale, Arkansas, it doesn’t seem like it would be a magnet for Pacific Islanders.

But as former Guam Resident Tom Sniff learned, Springdale’s opportunities for work attracted Islanders. And as a teacher, the opportunity to work with Islanders attracted Sniff.

The city’s website boasts about its diversity, noting “the largest Marshallese population in the contiguous United States resides in Springdale,” and “more than 40 languages ​​are spoken at Springdale Public Schools.” Videos of 84,000 welcoming visitors to the city are posted in English, Spanish and Marshallese.

“Because there’s a lot of work here for them in different plantations, factories and other places, a lot of them moved here,” Sniff said.

Sniff grew up in Mangilao and Yigo. His mother, Elizabeth, is Filipino, while his father, Robert, is from Arkansas.

When Sniff began his career in education, he realized there was a Massive Marshallese community in Springdale. He knew being a teacher was the ideal occupation for him, since he could live around a strong Pacific Islander community while using his knowledge and passion to serve them.

“I thought it was interesting that in a place like Arkansas you would find a Giant Islander community, so I thought how perfect it would be to come and move up here and work with these communities and these kids,” Sniff said.

He spent more than two decades living and working in Arkansas, and he met the Pohnpeians and Chuukese in Springdale as well.

For nine years, Sniff taught English at the Archer Learning Center, an alternative school that educates Troubled youth.

Now they teach computer science at the Don Tyson School of Innovation, where “30% of the school’s population is Marshallese, and a lot of them are in my coding class.”

“I work with them, teach them computer science, how to program webpages and a little bit of JavaScript,” he said.

Sniff makes learning coding fun by building different kinds of graphics, games, anime and movies his students are interested in, like Spiderman and Marvel.

His desire to educate Pacific Islanders started back on Guam. He lived in Mangilao until he was 4, then moved to Yigo with his family.

He attended Yigo Elementary School and Harmon Loop Elementary School. Then he went to FB Leon Guerrero Middle School and Simon Sanchez High School.

Midway through high school, Sniff moved to Arkansas, graduating from North Little Rock High School in 2000. He went to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, where he graduated in 2005 with a major in English and a minor in creative writing.

Sniff lived in Little Rock for a few years, but he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his English degree. He worked as a cook, then as a maintenance man for an interior design company. He installed light fixtures and mirrors. He worked in tech support for AT&T.

“I thought I might want to be a Writer, but I actually decided one day to go back to school, get my Master’s in secondary education and become a teacher,” he said. “My parents were both educators my whole life, so it was all something in the back of my head.”

So he went back to school and got his Master’s degree in education at the University of Arkansas in 2011. He taught for a year in Little Rock before moving up to Fayetteville to be with his girlfriend, Elizabeth.

Now she’s his wife.

After earning his first salary as a teacher, Sniff came back to Guam during the summer of 2012. He hiked to Pagat Cave, walked around the Paseo de Susana and ate empanadas.

Moving from Guam or other Micronesian islands to the US Mainland could be difficult, but Sniff believes the circumstances are getting better now because there are other Pacific Islanders who are doing well in their fields, whether it’d be in business, sciences, the arts or technology.

“If you are passionate about a career and you are willing to put in the effort and not give up, you will also succeed, too,” Sniff said.


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