Manila, 4 October 2017 — How to pioneer a new nationwide program to empower high-school leaders to create their own projects for a Sustainable Development Goal? That's what Michaela Navato did.
One and a half years ago, a small group of Millennials, students and young professionals of the ASEAN Youth Leaders Association—Philippines, took on the challenge of demonstrating that it is possible to empower high-school leaders age 12-15 to make a difference in sustainable development projects.
In collaboration with Natalie in the Light Inc., an NGO founded by Coach Wouter Lincklaen Arriëns in memory of his daughter Natalie, they set out to create the Young Bridging Leaders program (YBL), attracting school teams from the Philippine islands of Mindanao, Visayas, and Luzon, including the capital Metro Manila.
Michaela Navato took on the challenge of leading the team as director of the YBL program. While no one in her team had any prior experience with such a program to support high-school leaders, there was plenty of passion, and also the perseverance to make it happen against odds that, at times, seemed overwhelming.
During the 9-month program, each team of high-school leaders researched the developmental needs of a community in their local area and designed a project to support that community for one of the Sustainable Development Goals.
The young leaders then met in the capital Manila for a 4-day leadership camp, where they were trained in essential leadership skills, and revised their project designs several times after meeting with experts.
Michaela and her team secured support from several organizations to make the camp happen, including from the Department of Education's National Educators Academy of the Philippines and from the Asian Development Bank's Youth for Asia team.
During a six-month project implementation period after the leadership camp, the school teams were supported by managers in Michaela's YBL team, who helped them with mentoring and practical advice, including support from subject-matter specialists for their projects.
Educational, health, and environmental goals proved the most popular among the participating high-school teams. Some of the projects they championed brought street children in for weekend classes, and raised AIDs awareness among young victims of typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).
Other teams focused on the construction of a community health center in a remote community, using eco-bricks, and on promoting employment opportunities for school drop-outs.
In July 2017, the first batch of Young Bridging Leaders marked their graduation from the program by personally meeting the Vice-President of the Philippines in a ceremony and Q&A session at her office, and by celebrating their lessons learned at the Asian Development Bank the following day.
In the meantime, after reflecting on the success of her team in the first year, Michaela is now supporting her successor Dee Urtua to lead the second edition of the Young Bridging Leaders program, aiming to ripple out the results of the first batch to a wider circle of schools in the country.
As shown by Michaela and her colleagues, and the teams of high-school leaders who joined the first YBL program, leadership is not about age. It is about mindset, attitude, and perseverance.