Elsa Batica: Making Filipino Students' Voices Heard
Elsa Batica come to the United States from the Philippines in the 1970s as a political refugee escaping martial law imposed upon the country by then President Ferdinand Marcos. Elsa has excelled in the U.S., with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and M.A. in Planning and Community Development. She has over 25 years of experience working in multicultural issues, cultural competency, diversity management and community development. Along the way, she became a naturalized American citizen.
Reaching out to Teenagers
As she embarked upon a career transition from a corporate position to independent consulting, Elsa registered for the Evolve program. The class helped her launch a program that helps teenagers in her home town of Abuyog, Leyte in the Philippines imagine that they can have a say in what happens in their lives and in their community.
“My country stills lives under the black cloud of unbridled government authority and people are often afraid to speak out about what they believe,” says Elsa. “But kids have great ideas. I wanted to give them a way to express their ideas and to help make their ideas come true.”
Using Your Magic Wand
The program Elsa established invited high school seniors to enter an essay contest on the question: “If you had a magic wand, what would you do?”
Elsa went to work to get the community behind the effort and to raise money so that the winner would receive a scholarship for tuition at a regional college. She established a panel of judges from around the world to read and evaluate the essays. This spring, Elsa’s sister was on hand to award the scholarship money to the winning essay writer.
Creating the Buzz
“The program was successful beyond my wildest dreams,” says Elsa. “It created such buzz in my Filipino community. When I was there shortly before the winner was announced, I was treated like a celebrity. The teenagers were so grateful to have the opportunity. And it wasn’t the scholarship that motivated them the most. It was that someone wanted to hear their ideas. I am so touched by how inspirational this small idea has been for the community. My husband and I have decided to start a foundation in order to continue the program into the future. One of the things we hope to do is to fund implementation of some of the ideas that the students have offered.”
Elsa speaks highly of her experience in the Evolve class and believes it was the spark that got her going to create something that has immeasurable value to her community and for herself.