DIAMOND BAR, CA — For the Lakas mentorship program, these young Filipino-Americans have been arming the youth with knowledge and relationships to be stronger individuals, as they enter each new phase in their lives.
Since its creation in the spring of 2012, Lakas has been empowering the Filipino youth in California’s Inland Empire, which includes the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario metropolitan area.
“Our mentors and mentees come from high schools and colleges all across Southern California, and that’s what makes it very special and unique,” said Donnaly Atajar from the Lakas board of advisors. “They’re involved in their own Filipino organizations on campus, their own dance groups, different extra curricular organizations — but they bring all of that flavor and all of that insight.”
Lakas felt action needed to be taken, after noticing low graduation rates among Fil-Am students.
“Part of the reason is not necessarily trying to figure out why those Filipino-American students are not graduating from college, but presenting situations and fostering relationships in which we could help those students graduate at higher rates,” said Lakas advisor April Mara Cristal.
Through pairing a high school student with a college student, these young kababayans help each other through Lakas’ five pillars of self-awareness, Fil-Am studies, college prep, leadership, and positionality.
“Not only do you get paired up, like a mentee and a mentor, a high school student and a college student, you also get to meet up in a big group and talk about your culture, as well as kind of find your inner self,” said Abigail Relatado.
For the graduating high school seniors, Lakas has helped them get ready for college in more ways than one.
“They’ve all gone through college. They’ve gone through graduate school too so they know what essays work, what essays don’t, what colleges kind of look for, and they kind of help you moves towards more of what you want to do instead of what people expect you to do,” said UC Berkeley-bound Justin Carlou Lim.
For the college graduates, Lakas has given them an opportunity to help foster self-growth through strengthening their community.
“Lakas address the things that you don’t hear at the family table when you’re eating lumpia and adobo. I think they bring the reality of what we’re feeling and internalizing as Filipino-Americans out into a space where participants can feel safe, can feel a sense of community, and for me at least in my experience, a sense of acceptance,” said Jenny Rose Regalado Rodil.
Lakas plans to become a 501-c3 non-profit organization, and has the ultimate goal of opening its own center.