Emerging Southeast Asian leader Mara Duterte joins June 1 dialogue with President Obama

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She hopes to make a difference in the entire region.

She hopes to make a difference in the entire region.

Young Southeast Asian leaders, such as Mara Duterte are helping to improve the lives of girls in their countries. Duterte is a manager for Girls Got Game, a sports camp for girls who face tough economic conditions in the Philippines.

The nonprofit organization is managed by former athletes who use basketball and soccer to build confidence in these girls, confidence that promises to help them reach success in school and adulthood. Camp leaders share their own athletic experiences to teach persistence and teamwork.

When she’s not helping girls become athletes, Duterte works for the government of the Philippines as an electronics engineer. Duterte’s work reflects her love for her country and her fellow Filipinas. As a member of the White House’s Young Southeast Asian Leadership Initiative (YSEALI), she hopes to make a difference in the entire region.

On June 1, President Obama will be hosting the 2015 White House Event with YSEALI in Washington D.C. as part of a high-level engagement with the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative. Fifty-five YSEALI Professional Fellows, including Mara, and 20 YSEALI Academic Fellows representing all 10 ASEAN countries will attend an hour-long event aimed at celebrating their achievements.

The President will engage the leaders in a dialogue on how they will use the educational and professional experience gained in the United States to address the regional challenges and opportunities upon their return to Southeast Asia. The group is the first to come to the United States as part of the YSEALI Fellowships announced by Obama at a town hall in Burma in November 2014.

In total, 500 YSEALI Fellows will come to the United States on an annual basis to further develop their professional and leadership skills in priority areas including entrepreneurship and economic empowerment, environment, and civic engagement. YSEALI is Obama’s signature initiative to strengthen leadership development across ASEAN, deepen engagement with young leaders on key regional and global challenges, and strengthen people-to-people ties between the United States and Southeast Asia. YSEALI further reinforces the President’s commitment to rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific region.

These 75 exceptional young leaders, aged 18-35, completed immersive academic and professional programs in locations across the United States. The 20 Academic Fellows spent five weeks at the East-West Center in Honolulu. The intensive program focused on the environment and included an academic residency, leadership development training, an educational study tour to Colorado, community service, and collaboration with American peers.

The 55 Professional Fellows spent five weeks working directly with American counterparts in non-profit organizations, state and local government, and private sector offices in 12 states (Montana, Minnesota, Washington, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Texas) and the District of Columbia, where they enhanced their practical expertise, leadership skills, and professional contacts.

More than 1,000 applicants competed for the 75 spring Fellowships. Their professions include ministry officials, non-governmental organization leaders, journalists, city council members, entrepreneurs, and teachers.

Upon returning home at the conclusion of their program, these Fellows will connect with their peers across the region through larger YSEALI and U.S. international exchange program alumni networks to build on their U.S. experiences and address challenges and create new opportunities in their home communities.

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