Ageism, a tough trend that was set to be one of the biggest challenges of the modern-day youth. A period where someone older than you, may point out your flaws and discourage you from reaching the pinnacle of life. And as hefty as it can get, some of us choose to obey and to never question why it happens. But remember, that as we approach the future, an empowered youth is just getting started. Welcome to 2022, where the future leaders are bound to shift the course of mankind.

The potential of a child will only be seen once they start to realize their passion. Some may choose medicine or engineering, while others decide on a unique path that is difficult yet fulfilling.  As for a young enthusiast from a small town, leadership became the center of his potential. Growing up, I was often underestimated due to my small stature. People would often say that I was too young to even act independently, and that I should follow the orders of the people who are older than me. I would usually nod politely to what they say, and just let the day continue. When one of my teachers heard me speak for the first time in front of the class, he was astonished. He couldn’t believe that such a small person could carry that much authority when he speaks. He then encouraged me to be a part of various clubs, to hone my capabilities, and to effectively lead our school to a better light. It was a rush of emotion, a sense of what I truly want to do with my life. And from a young age, that is when I realized that leadership is my true purpose.

But as overjoyed as I was to reach that conclusion, such a path has its audacious vicissitudes. Being a young leader was not a walk in the park, due to the constant judgement that is being bestowed upon me. They would usually question the projects that I was planning for our school, saying that it was an ineffective approach and that we should take other measures. It was disheartening, but once I gained composure, I was able to persevere. It was then revealed that the projects were indeed effective, and that I should have never doubted my decisions. It was a point of enlightenment.

And now, as a high school student, I am still carrying the torch of leadership. We have made countless projects, in ensuring the benefit of every student. Symposiums, seminars, programs, etc. All of these advocacies were made to train the students in becoming disciplined and educated individuals. Education became the center of every step that we have made, due to how we strongly believe with its capacity to change the current system. The youth of JGMNHS have also been very active with these advocacies, and have been utilizing social media to empower others in breaking countless barriers. We have tackled issues on mental health, environment, and even about equality, to inform and educate the youth about the importance of these external aspects. Indeed, a responsibility that we must never take lightly.

Despite the dreaded pandemic situation, we have remained steadfast and focused in creating programs for our schools and our own communities. Countless students have participated in “The Scientist Protest”, which is an International Campaign that was made to warn every one of the dangers that our environment might face in the future. Because of this, students from various schools were inspired to plant as many saplings as they can in known areas around Pangasinan. With the guidance of our teachers, we also made educational seminars online to awaken the minds of every young enthusiast out there, believing that there is a leader in each of us. And as we take every step, we are constantly reminding ourselves of our true intentions, which is to bring comfort to the people while we instill values and lessons to the people who are participating, in hopes of applying such aspects to their lives.

But with all the projects that we have made, one of them has remained in my mind and was deemed to be one of the most memorable. A child once approached us, asking for food and supplies. Back then, we were only starting and had almost nothing to give. The child was wearing ragged clothes and was seemingly desperate for food, so we did our best to give something to the poor child. He was incredibly happy, as he waved goodbye to us. That heartwarming moment became a click of inspiration, as we decided to offer an advocacy that was meant to the children of our community.

            With this project, we were able to distribute school supplies, food, and even relate to the stories of these children. Most of them belong to the lower-middle class, and are not able to support their everyday necessities. This day became a freedom of happiness for them, as we hosted games and even taught certain disciplines that they could apply to their lives. We taught them how to read and write, and even count numbers. It was a wonderful time, and it made me reflect on the purpose that I have been carrying on through this journey.

To this day, it is inevitable that some people may still flood us with constant discernment and negativity. People of higher ages may glare at us, and throw us off the track with the thought that they will always be right. When you are young, they would always assume that you know nothing. The youth of today have taken education as an inspiration, and with every step that they make, is a major contribution. The youth is no longer silent.

I am a living proof that ageism is just a myth, and even a young enthusiast can be an effective leader in any field. Never let someone silence you, for it is your right to claim your spot in society. Be bold, be brave, and be a leader of today.

By: Jan Marc G. Padigos of Juan Macaraeg National High School  (3rd Place for the Search for Best Stories and Testimonials)