Young adults often bring a refreshing level of energy and new ideas to organizations. But what happens when that organization is government? More than 30 years ago, a Philippine Kiwanis club developed a program to find out.
Around 50 top scholars from the Camarines Norte Province participate in Boys and Girls Week each year. Because of the legacy of the program, says Benigno Elevado, secretary of the Kiwanis Club of Daet, “being an official delegate for their school is like a dream come true.”
After receiving training on topics ranging from leadership styles to parliamentary procedure and governmental functions, the teens elect among themselves a governor, vice governor and mayor, and appoint positions such as provincial engineers, accountants, legal officer and tourism officer. Since the program is held in Daet — the provincial capital — the students gain the opportunity to run both provincial and local government for a week.
Elevado stresses that the roles of the students are taken seriously. The activity is welcomed by the provincial government, which provides the majority of the funding.
“If they’re elected as governor, sometimes they’ll be required to represent the actual governor in public functions and deliver speeches. If they’re elected in a legislative function, they’ll have joint sessions with their counterparts, and any resolutions that are approved are considered legal. Those appointed as judges and prosecutors do mock hearings. Aside from their official functions, the students may also do some civic activities, like tree planting and jail visitations,” he explains.
“This was an enriching experience that helped me understand how our system of government works,” shares participant Samantha Tanzo, who was elected vice governor. “I was able to work side by side with my counterpart and see firsthand how difficult it is to approve a resolution. A public officer should always be patient in dialogue with different types of people.”
“Though it’s only for a week, they learn a lot about government operations, especially policy and lawmaking,” Elevado says. “There are a lot of past participants who now hold elected government positions.”
One of them is Vice Governor Jonah Pimentel, who was elected governor during Boys and Girls Week in 1984. For him, the experience of reaching out to others to support the inmates in the provincial jail sparked an interest in public service.
“Now that I’m on the other side as a mentor, I see to it that the students learn more of the things I have learned during my stint.”
Tanzo is contemplating one day becoming one of them, too. — Courtney Meyer
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