As said by our national hero Jose Rizal, the youth is the hope of the nation. Even amidst a pandemic, student leaders are still creating projects that benefit their constituents and the community.
This week on #Wednesday Voices, She Talks Asia chatted with female student leaders Alex Brotonel, Patty Santiago, and Cate Malig about their advocacies, inspiration, and self-care practices.
Please give us a background on what you do and the different things you're passionate about:
Alex: I am a student leader, advocate for indigenous peoples, and also a protest artist who advocates for good governance, human rights, and accountability. More so, I am also a protest artist behind the Instagram Account @alexbillustrates. I am passionate about devoting my time to serve the student body and going down to communities to offer assistance in times of crisis. Furthermore, I also enjoy creating art for a cause. Therefore, 100 percent of my proceeds go to some of the most vulnerable sectors in our country.
Patty: Hi, I'm Patty, a third-year BS Industrial Engineering Student minoring in Service Management at De La Salle University-Manila. I'm currently the Vice President for Human Resources and Development in the Industrial Management Engineering Society (IMES) from DLSU-Manila. My team and I create projects and events that bridge the organization and the IE Community. I'm very passionate about all the things I do, especially when it comes to paving the way for service, growth, and empowerment. This resonates with the values I uphold, and I couldn't be more grateful for all the opportunities life has presented me with.
Cate: I am an undergraduate student in Economics and Development Studies and am currently the VP for External Affairs of the DLSU University Student Government. As a student leader, I do my best to represent and forward students rights and welfare. Outside of that, I am very passionate about research and policy work towards equal economic opportunities, especially for women.
What inspired you to be a student leader?
Alex: I am taking up Early Childhood Education at De La Salle University-Manila, and this is the primary reason I choose to become a student leader. As a future educator, I want to fight the injustices happening in our country to inspire my future students that there is no age requirement in creating progress for our country.
Patty: To be a student leader means that you would have to put others before yourself; To look beyond the boundaries and see the people. Many stories have inspired me to become who I am today, but there is no need to look further because, at the very core of it all, I find my mom, my hero, the very reason why I want to continue serving with a purpose.
Cate: I was inspired to join the student government because I saw its potential to address pertinent social issues like the need for safe spaces and mental health awareness. Fortunately, I have had the privilege of being surrounded by peers who were actively engaged in creating initiatives for social change within the student body and learning and alongside them.
How do you balance your academics and your duties as a student leader?
Alex: It is sometimes difficult for me to balance both, but creating a schedule helps me a lot. It is important for me to create a structure to follow and respect. By creating such allows me to figure out the time I have left to take a breather and avoid burnout in studying and serving my constituents.
Patty: It's definitely a difficult task to do, but with enough support from both my family and colleagues empowered me to efficiently delegate tasks and manage time well for both responsibilities. However, it is important to take note that the word student comes before leader, which means that we must not let ourselves get too carried away in the process.
Cate: It definitely takes effort and discipline to be able to balance the two. Personally, I take on everything one goal at a time so that I don't get overwhelmed with the number of responsibilities that I have to fulfill. However, I do not carry all of these alone. I have been very fortunate to have been able to work with other student leaders who share the same passion, tenacity, and determination who help me execute projects for the student body.
What are your self-care practices did you adopt during the pandemic?
Alex: Aside from eating ice cream every night, I try my best to draw to help different organizations. Throughout the pandemic, I volunteered to draw for various causes close to my advocacies. And yes, it is physically tiring, but the passion outweighs the exhaustion as the craft feeds my passion for keeping going every day.
Patty: One thing that I wasn't really able to do when we had face-to-face classes was to allocate time to bond with my family. Aside from the usual K-Dramas, occasional Shopee budols, and ramen cravings, family bondings are definitely therapeutic because nothing beats having a good laugh with my parents and sister.
Cate: The most important thing I've learned about caring for myself and my mental health during the pandemic has been forgiving myself more. I used to be quite strict (if not harsh) with the expectations that I set out for myself. The onslaught of the global pandemic and having COVID-19 myself taught me how vital it truly is to admit that sometimes I'm not okay--and that's alright. I'm allowed to not constantly be at full capacity, and I shouldn't expect that from myself either.
What is your advice to young girls and women who aspire to be a student leader someday?
Alex: Kaya mo maging student-leader and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. I acknowledge that being a student-leader is a huge responsibility, and it is indeed scary. Still, you have to understand that your voice is crucial in amplifying the calls for good governance, youth empowerment, and nation-building. And with this, take the leap as you are the most capable of creating the change you envision.
Patty: As cliche as it may sound, don't let anyone tell you what you can and can't do. Always continue to serve a greater purpose and never forget the core reason behind this. It will not be an easy path to take, people may tear you down with their words or actions, but you have to just shake it off, be strong, and move forward. You can always redefine and revolutionize who you are. Though being a student leader may be a stepping stone for a myriad of opportunities in the future, don't ever forget to stay grounded to the values and principles you uphold in your life.
Cate: There is so much work that needs to be done, and we can only begin to do so if we take the initiative. So take that leap of faith but remember to stay grounded in the values that pushed you to serve in the first place. Take this opportunity to learn from and with others, and most importantly, to lead with principle and compassion.