(Photo courtesy of City Youth Development Office - Puerto Princesa Facebook Page)

Justine Kate Mirasol, a senior high student at Sicsican National High School (SNHS), has always wanted to make a difference in her community. Aside from being involved in school, she is also a part of various civic engagement initiatives in the city.

She didn’t want to be a typical youth leader who seeks positions just to obtain more attention. She wanted to urge her peers to take an active part in their local communities.

This motivated her to join in the Apuradong Kabataan ng Puerto Princesa (AKAPP) Young Leaders Academy, a 6-month training program run by the City Youth Development Office (CYDO).

“Sumali ako sa AKAPP to pursue my dreams not just to lead the youth or become popular but I want to encourage my fellow youth to take part in community and nation building. I believe my potential as well as my particular gifts, talents, and skills can be enhanced through education, training, and development in the AKAPP leadership program” she told Palawan News.

According to her, AKAPP gives young Puerto Princesans the chance to be leaders in their own communities, which is something they seldom receive in school.

“Typically, the students would join their school-based student government in order for them to gain leadership experience. Sadly, this has become a privilege and not an opportunity for most since in school, popularity is more favored than willingness to serve. I believe AKAPP gives equal opportunity to all aspiring young leaders of Puerto Princesa as it provides extensive leadership training for us to become true leaders of our own communities.” she added.

CYDO head Ralph Richard Asuncion agrees with Mirasol: providing equitable opportunity regardless of the youth’s socio-political backgrounds distinguishes AKAPP from other youth formation advocacy organizations.

He said that the goal of CYDO is to give young people the chance to fulfill their responsibilities in the community.

“Ang napapansin namin na problema ay hindi [lahat ng kabataan] nabibigyan ng attention katulad sa mga paaralan ang laging nabibigyan ng attention ay ang mga nasa higher section pero ang mga nasa lower section ay hanggang doon na lang. ‘Yong iba kasi iniisip nila parang wala ng nangyari sa buhay nila dahil sa kahirapan, mga problema, at walang nakikita na oportunidad sa kanila,” he said.

Asuncion acknowledged that developing young leaders is just the first step. Their ultimate objective is to share what they have learnt with their peers and make a difference in their communities following the program.

He said the CYDO youth, among others, will have to be trained on leadership, communication, and even how to manage meetings through parliamentary procedures.

“Naglalayon ito na magkaroon ng kasanayan ang mga kabataan lalo na sa leadership, communication, parliamentary procedures at iba’t ibang trainings patungkol sa droga, HIV AIDS, reproductive health at iba pa na makakatulong sa kanila. Pagkatapos nilang matuto ay sila naman ay bibigyan ng pagkakataon na ibahagi ang kanilang natutunan sa ibang kabataan,” Asuncion said.

The leadership academy now has 60 young leaders from all across the city enrolled.

With this effort, Asuncion hopes to reach as many young Puerto Princesans as possible.

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