Laurie Peterka

Participant: 2022 U.S. Grassroots Accelerator

Supporting the intersection of youth education and elder wisdom in hopes of advancing ocean stewardship and indigenous culture preservation.



Northern Mariana Islands | Guam

Affiliations & Roles

Co-Founder and Executive Director of Friends of the Mariana Trench
Consultant at Practical Solutions

Laurie is a 30-year resident of the Northern Mariana Islands and an entrepreneur with a commitment to community empowerment. She finds joy in teaching and mentoring and expresses this in the non-profit work she does in her community. Currently, she is part-time Executive Director for the Friends of the Mariana Trench, an organization she co-founded in 2009. In this capacity, she is also the Program Director for Project HOPE: Health Oceans & People Empowerment – an educational collaboration between public school system sixth-graders, local college students, and community elders. Project HOPE acts as a bridge between traditional ecological knowledge and modern conservation science. The long-term goal is to foster interest in conservation careers among CNMI youth, ultimately leading to the development of 30 more local ocean and marine science professionals by 2030. To this end, earlier this year, Laurie instigated the creation of a stakeholder working group, together with the Northern Marianas College, at the Northern Mariana Islands House of Representatives Natural Resource Committee and established baseline data during engagement to provide support towards implementing a 4-year marine biology program at college. Additionally, Laurie created opportunities for the community to learn how to participate in the federal public commenting process for the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument draft management plan and the proposed Mariana Trench Marine National Sanctuary nomination renewal process. Laurie’s vision for the Friends of the Mariana Trench is to empower villages with support in creating ocean stewardship conversation spaces in more traditional ways. For the second half of this year, she is focused on developing the Ocean Conservation Corp for mid-career individuals and expanding into high school programs for both students and teachers. She is also working with a few different local scientists to document baseline research around marine protected area management, community fishing effort, and ocean literacy, especially in the context of traditional ecological knowledge.

A 25-year CNMI business professional with an impressive history of concurrent community service through a wide range of local nonprofits. Laurie co-founded several local NGOs including Friends of the Mariana Trench Monument (FOMT), Island SK8 Society, the Northern Mariana Islands Volleyball Association, and the Pacific Ombudsman for Humanitarian Law. Over the last 15 years, she has worked closely with indigenous community groups and top-level leadership in six different countries throughout the Pacific Islands in establishing various marine protected areas. As a board member for the Marianas Alliance of Non-Governmental Organizations (MANGO), Laurie continues to be actively engaged in analyzing and problem-solving for nonprofits and curating solutions through grant proposal writing, grant management, organizational development, and capacity building. Laurie is a graduate of Northern Marianas College and holds a Bachelor of Science in Management.