Six (6) UP High School in Iloilo (UPHSI) Senior High School Students attended the 3rd Youth Leaders Summit 2023 at the IEC Convention Center, Cebu City, last September 28-30, where more than 1,000 youth leaders across the Philippines assembled.
The student participants included Aisha Yaelle F. Homeres, Arwen Jayne B. Deriada, and Caiden L. Ramirez from Grade 11, and Jeareene Therese S. Loredo, Hannah Guadalupe, and Janella Marie Delos Santos from Grade 12. They were accompanied by Prof. Pepito R. Fernandez, Jr., Chair of the Division of Professional Education.
As the opening remarks began, three key principles were emphasized: “Be engaged, be open, and be curious.” These profound words served as the foundation for the summit's goals, urging attendees to actively participate, embrace new ideas, and question the status quo.
According to the participants, the summit was a space for the youth to meet and network with each other and to share different views and opinions from their own experiences. As the speakers shared some struggles they had experienced, such as the hardship of reaching communities or remote areas, the participants also shared their lack of support or feeling of aloneness along the journey, struggles with money and resources, generational gaps, stereotypes, and red-tagging. The first message that resonated deeply with the youth leaders was the realization that they often need to be taken more seriously in decision-making processes. The phrase "Kabataan ang ating kaagapay sa kaunlaran” was the driving force behind the discussions on how to engage the youth in their communities.
There were also breakout sessions prepared for the participants where they could choose what sector they were interested in. These included Governance and Active Citizenship, Social Inclusion and Equity, and Voters’ Education, to name a few. In the breakout session of Governance and Active Citizenship, Prof. Pepito Fernandez, highlighted how issues across various social sectors are interconnected. The interrelation, he argued, presents an opportunity to devise holistic solutions that address multiple problems simultaneously.
The UPV Sibika Hub Representatives attended the discussion about voters’ education for the last session, which lasted for approximately three hours. It was very timely as the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections were forthcoming during that time. Three speakers from different sectors of society were invited to the stage to discuss the topic. They tackled the importance of campaigning for voters’ education to empower the youth to engage and participate in democratic processes, which is part of the country’s democratic agenda.
As empowered youth leaders, attendees were encouraged to create a “plan of action.” The speakers emphasized that the youth should not only identify problems but also propose solutions to address them. The resounding message was that progress will follow if the youth speak up and take action.
Aligned with the theme "ARANGKADA: Gearing Towards Sustainable Youth Coalitions,” the event was a declaration that the Filipino youth are ready to shape the destiny of their nation. They were committed to making their voices heard, overcoming challenges, and building the Philippines they could be proud of.