The weather was perfect for a conversation among the young professionals, community members and student leaders at Boston College. Consul General Mario de Leon, Jr. (center, front row) poses with participants.  (Photo by Dondee Santos)

BOSTON — The second leg of the Leadership and Mentoring Seminar: Empowerment for the Emerging Generation spearheaded by the Philippine Consulate General was held for the New England youth at Stokes Hall in Boston College, Massachusetts on April 11.

About 70 participants comprised of students, young professionals, youth advocates and some first-gen community members filled the lecture hall to discuss the second-generation Filipino-Americans’ role in the community’s affairs.

Consul General Mario de Leon, Jr. opened the program and thanked the event co-host Philippine Society of Boston College, and planning partner Jennifer Coliflores for helping the Consulate organize the successful seminar.

In his remarks, de Leon noted the importance of involving the youth in community planning, as he believes the future of the Filipino-American community lies with the second- and third-gens.

He recognized that the Consulate, along with the senior organizations in the community, should be responsible in honing the youth to have the proper frame of mind to accept this role.

He added that the purpose of the Leadership and Mentoring Seminar is for the young Fil-Ams to have the confidence to assume leadership starting from their own youth organizations, professions, the community, and the greater U.S. society in general.

The speakers for each of the modules shared their expertise on the topics assigned and welcomed a healthy discourse on issues from the young attendees.

Alpha Sanford, a University of the Philippines Diliman-graduate and currently assistant headmaster at Randolph High School lectured on “Understanding the Filipino.”

She related her immigrant story and highlighted that Filipinos are sought after in the world for their high educational attainment and work professional ethics, and encouraged the participants to proudly display their Filipino identity and values, and stay true to their narrative or story of being a remarkable Filipino-American.

Dean Mary Grace Almandrez of the Brown University Center for Students of Color gave an emphatic presentation on “Leadership and Motivation.”

She described her struggles growing up in a predominantly foreign community as a young immigrant Filipino child from Olongapo but recounted how she discovered to embrace her identity and make the most of her Filipino upbringing to enrich her character, education, career and personal life.

She taught the participants to break the stereotype and seek for leaders among the community and promote leadership of Filipinos in their organizations, corporations and the greater U.S. society.

Imparting her knowledge as a Certified Public Accountant, Jocelyn Santiago, community leader from the Filipino-American Friendship Society of New Hampshire, held an interactive lecture on “Financial Functions of An Organization,” to provide frameworks for young community leaders and prospective founders to set-up their own non-profit organizations under the guidelines set for 501(c)3.

More practicable and transferrable skills were shared by Tinsel and Twine Partner, Adette Contreras in her presentation, “Events and Real Life.”


Counterclockwise from top right: Consul General Mario de Leon, Jr. speaks with a participant; Northeastern University student leader verbalizes his realization that they are leaders in their own award-winning organization; Participants discuss among themselves lessons learned; PSBC co-president Brian Limbo adds that his peers need to feel empowered to participate more in the community; A Massachusetts 2nd-gen Fil-Am asks: “How many of you speak Filipino?” and raises that the youth should exert effort in learning the language.  (Photos by Dondee Santos)

Drawing from her experience as an events designer, she disclosed some tips on how the participants can maximize their attendance in any event they attend — from formal galas, to business mixers and social club gatherings. She related the importance of approaching    the right persons, highlighting one’s own strengths (or having someone do it for you), and being purposeful in one’s participation in their organization and presence in a party or gathering.  

Two groups of panelists then rounded up some topics raised in the earlier lectures, and discussed questions and comments from the audience.

The first Panel Discussion focused on “The Second-Generation Americans’ Introduction to the Community,” moderated by Jennifer Coliflores.

Philippine Society of Boston College (PSBC) officers Isabella Rosales and Julian Mondonedo related their student organization’s involvement in the community, citing that their annual event “Bayanihan, Spirit of the Philippines” fulfills their effort to promote the culture, talent and social programs of the country to the whole Boston College community.

Youth member from New Hampshire Calvin Santiago shared how he was eased into his mother’s community organization and said that to hold the young community members’ interest, the programs of the organizations must also cater to their needs such as socials and school placement.

AmeriCorps City Year Boston volunteer Philjay Solar noted that he was fortunate to grow up with a strong Filipino community in his hometown but also acknowledges that the youth participation in the community’s activities are dwindling.

All of the panelists agreed that the second- and third-generation Fil-Ams are willing to take on more roles in the community if only they would be given guidance and the confidence by the elders to lead their own projects and working groups.

As a way to encourage the attendees to go into social entrepreneurship and inform them of organizations welcoming them into their company, four leaders spoke during the Panel Discussion “Strengthening Our Bond to the Philippines Through Civic Engagement and Social Enterprise.”

CEO and Chief Builder of Next Day Better Ryan Letada opened the discussion by sharing his experiences dealing with Filipino influencers in tech, business, arts, food, who he features in his global speaking events.

As a Fullbright fellow and FYLPro alum, Letada informed the young attendees of these opportunities available to the Filipino-American youth and how tremendously he was helped by these once-in-a-lifetime chances.

Recent Brown University graduate Rexy Josh Dorado explained the organization he founded, Kaya Collaborative, a fellowship opportunity for students interested in immersing themselves in the culture and social issues of the Philippines.

Kaya Co. places each fellow into a customized internship with a social venture in Manila, based on the individual’s unique skill set and the organization’s specific needs.

Kaya Co. curates each of these projects specifically to ensure experiential value for the fellow, capacity-building potential for the organization, and long-term impact for the target community.

On their first year alone in 2014, Kaya Co. was able to send interns to social enterprises in the Philippines and seek for more funding and sponsorships to increase that number this year.

Young entrepreneur Rowena Sy-Santos, business development director of Bagong Kulturan Pinoy Inc. (BKP), invited volunteers to their organization which aims to promote literacy and love of reading among children in underserved communities in the Philippines.

BKP provides children’s books to partner schools in the Philippines and manages reading programs help develop the young students’ reading and thinking skills.

Tech professional David Zarraga stated that his involvement in the community began because of his two young sons.

Their family joined the Iskwelahang Pilipino, an organization that holds bi-weekly lessons in Filipino language, music and arts to create an environment where their children will have the opportunity to learn about their Filipino heritage.

Later on, he added, his involvement increased when he learned of the presence of Gawad Kalinga in Massachusetts and started participating in their programs to support beneficiary GK communities in the Philippines.

In closing, Vice Consul Khrystina Corpuz — whose portfolio in the Consulate includes community relations with the second-gens — rounded up the discussions by noting to the first-gen leaders in the audience that the young ones are willing and able to learn and take on leadership roles, and encouraged them to empower the youth members in their organizations to transition leadership.

She also echoed the desire of the participants to give back to the Philippines, but not in the way that is traditionally done by their parents or elders in the community.

The second-generation Fil-Ams’ idea of giving back is by way of socially-relevant programs and civic projects that impact the lives of kababayans back home in a wider scale in terms of education, livelihood sustainability, literacy and health services.

The first LMS was launched in New York last September, and two more seminars are planned this year for the youth of Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

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