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Young athlete forms organization for election education of the youth

Meagan Co Say, with officers of the Rotary Club of Naga headed by President Jonathan Lao and over 100 students and teachers from Maramba Elementary School (Naga City) joined the Vote4Youth Workshops last Sept. 1.

In a few days, on Oct. 30, Filipinos will once again exercise their right to vote in the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE), to elect new leaders of their barangays and for the youth, the Sangguniang Kabataan.

After many decades of holding elections, there is one sad fact that still surfaces – many still need to be educated about what the elections mean, and the responsibility that comes with it.

Facebook has once described the Philippines as “patient zero” in the global disinformation epidemic because of the rampant disinformation spreading online, especially during the election period. Aiming to change this situation by educating young Filipinos about the elections and their right to vote, a 17-year-old student from Everest Academy Manila named Meagan Yao Co Say set up Vote4Youth.

“With the guidance of educators in my school and my family, I formed Vote4Youth late last year,” Maegan said in an interview with the Manila Bulletin. “Vote4Youth is a youth-led movement that aims to educate votes as early as grade school, so that when they are old enough to vote, they will understand the significance of their vote through three pillars — awareness, education, and petition.”

Meagan credits part of the inspiration from conversations with other athletes from different countries. She is a Junior National Fencer representing the Philippines in various competitions abroad. Recently, the Grade 9 student bagged two gold medals in the Southeast Asian Fencing Federation competition.

Meagan receiving the Pledge of Support from Naga City Councilor Ghiel Rosales.png
Meagan (right) receiving a pledge of support from Naga City Councilor Ghiel Rosales.

“I have seen the support athletes get in other countries and the progress these countries have reached through the years. I have learned from my conversations that a country’s leadership and citizens’ actions are the keys to progress. In my own capacity, I hope to be an agent of education for change,” she said.

Meagan founded the organization in 2022, but already, Vote4Youth has visited many schools where she had given seminars on the election process, and the right to vote. The exercise even holds mock elections to demonstrate the election process.

“We were able to gather over 8,700 signatures to petition the Department of Education (DepEd) for stronger voter’s education as early as grade school. Our initial goal was 5,000. We were able to conduct V4Y workshops to over 500 students with their teachers. We also gathered support from politicians, civic groups and media,” she said.

Students from San Quintin National High School, Pangasinan, with their Vote4Youth mock voter’s ID.

On top of this, the organization is hoping to have a fruitful partnership with the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

“We are also working with Comelec to possibly include our workshop curriculum, modules and Vote4Youth Voter’s Journal worksheets as free resources on their website. We will not stop until voter’s education is taught in every grade school in the Philippines,” she said.

Even with her courage and enthusiasm for this advocacy, Meagan said it has not been an easy campaign. But when she looks back on the impact of the seminars on the students, she said that gives her the strength to push forward.

“I have approached government agencies, politicians, and NGOs about Vote4Youth. There was a lot of apathy, but also there was initial interest. But later on, they would set our cause aside. But I chose to focus on the few who listened to our stance to strengthen early voter’s education as early as grade school,” she said.

Vote4Youth workshops end with a voter’s pledge as seen during the workshop conducted at Camarines Sur National High School in Naga City on Sept. 1.

“Seeing how the students enjoyed learning about something important to their lives was a great feeling. It is refreshing to see how many young people share a deep concern for our country through their discussions. I hope they never outgrow their love for our country.”

Meagan has a plea to all the voters, especially the young ones. “This election, you should be extra careful with the information you consume and be observant and discerning about digital information. While it might feel tedious, it is part of our duty as citizens, especially the newer members of the electorate, to make an informed decision for responsible and nation-loving leaders who are running to bring progress to our country. Remember, your vote is our nation’s hope.”

Credit belongs to : www.mb.com.ph

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