In celebrating FAHM, young FilAms discuss leadership within, beyond the community

Student leaders Oliver Sawi (left) and Jezreel Jardeleza share thoughts on how youth can get involved in community-building

Student leaders Oliver Sawi (left) and Jezreel Jardeleza share thoughts on how youth can get involved in community-building

Consul General Mario de Leon Jr. with  FilAm students from the New England area. Photos by Dondee Santos

Consul General Mario de Leon Jr. with FilAm students from the New England area. Photos by Dondee Santos

On the celebration of Filipino-American History Month, New England students gathered in New Haven, Connecticut to share their thoughts on the transfer of leadership from elder community leaders to the younger generation.

The event called ‘Leadership and Mentoring Seminar (LMS): Empowerment for the Emerging Generation’ was held at Yale University’s Lisnly-Chittenden Hall on October 3.

It was organized by the Philippine Consulate General in collaboration with Yale University’s KASAMA, Yale Asian Network, University of Connecticut Filipino-American Students Association (FASA), and program partners Joe Battad of Philippine-American Association of Connecticut, Inc., and Oliver Sawi of FASA.

Consul General Mario de Leon, Jr. gave the keynote speech noting how Filipino-Americans breaking into the mainstream and occupying leadership positions in policy, government and business. He said his vision is of FilAm youth taking over leadership positions not only the community, but in mainstream American society.

“Know history, know self. No history, no self,” he said, as he hailed young FilAms as being fortunate for “having the best of both worlds,” meaning their core values as Filipinos, and the opportunities as Americans.

There was an engaging discussion between second-generation FilAms and panel speakers in the series of sessions.

Dean Mary Grace Almandrez of Brown University narrated her story as a young immigrant girl from Olongapo City growing up in a white-dominated San Diego, Calif. Suburb. She recalled how earlier on, she looked to her grandmother as a leader in the community. She urged the youth members to “break the traditional stereotypes of leadership: white, male, hierarchical, and old, and start to use education for critical thinking and disruption.”

Massachusetts Public Attorney Jennifer Coliflores urged students to turn to more experienced individuals, such as teachers or elders in the community, for insights on different aspects of life.

In Gina Apostol’s session on “Understanding the Filipino: Colonization and Revolution,” the novelist declared how history is usually written by the victors. Filipinos, she said, should see their history through “our own people’s perspectives and…fill in the gaps in the stories from the colonizers’ point of view with our ancestors’ own versions of the story.”

In the panel on the current state of youth involvement in the community, speakers such as FIND National Director Keno Rivera; Yale KASAMA Political Director Luna Beller-Tadiar; UConn FASA Representative Ryan Verano; New England Filipino Association (NEFAI) youth member Michael Stiefel; and Connecticut-based young professional and PAAC member Allan Tanchiato spoke about their organizations and their involvement in those clubs.

The idea was raised that young members’ interests sometimes do not fit that of traditional organizations of the older community. The young members said they have the energy but sometimes have no outlet, resources or network to put them into action.

The panel on Social Enterprise discussed tangible ways to channel the youth’s energy and how they may be able to give back to the Philippines. Rexy Josh Dorado of Kaya Collaborative explained his company’s internship program and how Kaya has forged partnerships in the Philippines. Gabriela New York’s Cole Carothers shared her insights on social change which, she said, was prompted by her experience in an immersion program in the Philippines, focusing on indigent communities.

Howie Clavite shared the vision of Gawad Kalinga to end poverty for 5 million families by 2024 through their GK villages, and how their programs could benefit from youth engagement.

Kirklyn Escondo, president of UniPro, spoke on how their organization consolidates the youth communities of New York and New Jersey towards productive and enriching programs. “Your being Filipino does not stop in school,” she said.

Councilman Jonathan Wong of Mahwah County, the youngest Filipino American elected into U.S. government, encouraged his peers to consider running for public office.

“The biggest impact (one) can do in policy is if you hold a position to make decisions for the greater community,” he said.

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