Welcome to the AFS Youth Assembly Podcast! In this episode, we are joined by Ilan Enverga, a young educator and SDG advocate from the Philippines. He works as a teacher and a teacher educator, and he’s also a member of UNESCO’s SDG for Youth and Student Network. We’re excited to talk to Ilan because he attended the AFS Youth Assembly last year and had a lot of success at the event, including winning second place at the AFS Award for Young Global Citizens. Ilan has since become a member of our Youth Advisory Council.
Listen to the full podcast episode here or keep reading the transcript.
Can you tell us more about your work, Ilan?
I absolutely have way too many good things to say about our recent AFS Youth Assembly, and I’m happy to ramble on a bit, but a little bit more about myself is I specifically enjoy embedding global citizenship and the SDGs into schools and teaching and into classrooms. So that’s really where I like to focus my energy and passions. It’s really all about empowering the next generation of young people to lead the solutions we need to tackle. One person cannot solve all the systemic problems that are happening, but if we are able to equip and mobilize an entire generation of young people to take on these challenges, then I believe we have a shot as a peaceful and prosperous society.
A lot of my work, full-time, goes to those kids and to those students and to my fellow teachers at my school in Lucena City, in the Philippines called ISBB or International School for Better Beginnings. And along with my hat as a full-time educator, I am also part of UNESCO’s SDG4 Youth & Student Network, as well as having been elected by my fellow cohort young leaders to serve on the SDG4 Education 2030 High-Level Steering Committee (HLSC), the apex body for global education cooperation, where I and Ellen Dixon represent the collective voices the youth and student constituencies. So, I’m very happy to be involved with the AFS Youth Assembly because empowering and ensuring meaningful participation of young people in global policy is very important to me, especially when it comes to SDG 4 and quality education.
I think my participation as well in the recent AFS Youth Assembly was very much SDG 4 branded all over because SDG 4 is my favorite SDG. And I know based on recent surveys that young people feel the same and feel very strongly in ensuring that this specific SDG on Quality Education is made a priority across all governing bodies. And as part of the AFS Youth Advisory Council, we’re excited to ensure that SDG 4 is prominent in the upcoming event.
Can you share more about your experience at the 2023 AFS Youth Assembly and how it impacted you? What is it that you learned or most valued from this experience?
My involvement with the recent Youth Assembly was jam-packed, I think is the right word. I think because of having maximized and used every second that I had at the Youth Assembly, there’s really a lot of things that I was able to learn. And I’m very grateful for the experience. I’m very grateful to AFS for connecting me with so many wonderful people.
First of all, I was part of an amazing group of educators from all over the world who flew in to discuss and champion global citizenship education as part of the Global Educators Workshop. We absolutely love how it was facilitated and how engaging it was. And from there, I learned that there is so much potential that is untapped when it comes to learning about intercultural and interfaith issues and topics within schools. I believe AFS absolutely hit the nail on the head and clearly demonstrated how and had us prepare collaborations with teachers from across the globe. For example, currently I’m talking to a teacher in South America where we will have my students in the Philippines learn about each other’s backgrounds, cultures, and also actually how they’re not just that, but also pushing forward that idea of global citizenship and how they’re working at the grassroots level to help their community and how to help advance the SDGs. So that is something I’m very grateful to have learned from the Global Educators Workshop.
And from my experience with the AFS Young Global Citizen Awards, I learned that there are so many amazing young changemakers all over the world doing incredible things. I was out of the loop. I wish I had known about what these people were doing earlier, but I’m so grateful to have met so many young change makers in all sorts of industries and sectors, and that gave me so much hope for the future. Just being able to meet these people in person, shake their hands, hear their stories, I’m very grateful to the AFS Youth Assembly for giving me that space because hope is something we need so much nowadays, and I felt that. My mind, body and soul felt that hope because of those exchanges with these amazing leaders from all over the world.
And lastly, I think my final learning was how much young people are craving to build their capacities, to be engaged, to be heard. I essentially felt the energy and the event of how hungry young people are to have a stake and have an influence on their future. I believe just being in that environment and that setting is what we need to take us to the next step to actually advance the 2030 agenda and actually get us to a world that is more just and more equitable and inclusive and sustainable. It’s putting us in a room together and having us feel each other’s motivations, passions, realize that we’re not alone, and realize that each of us has the capacity to create solutions wherever we are, whatever corner of the world we’re in. And for that, I’m very grateful to the AFS Youth Assembly.
Now we’re already preparing for the 2024 event, which will happen in August this year in New York City. The theme for this year is “Forge our Shared Future.” As a member of the Youth Advisory Council, can you maybe share a bit more about what makes you excited about this event?
What’s amazing about being part of the Youth Advisory Council is that AFS is bringing in young people to develop this event. I’m starting to feel a little bit of the pressure that maybe the organizers from AFS are experiencing, because I really hope our 2024 Youth Assembly is as impactful as it was for me or more so.
One thing I’m very much excited for, which is most likely my favorite part of going to the previous Youth Assembly, is meeting people. It’s honestly quite simple. It’s really meeting people. It’s very rare to have that opportunity to come face-to-face with people from all sorts of backgrounds who come from such beautiful diversity. And that in of itself is an awakening to how the world should be. It’s a world that sees one another not for our differences, but for our shared humanity, for our shared goals and our shared visions and the energy.
There’s nothing that really beats in-person energy and being able to have these exchanges to learn from one another, learn about everyone’s struggles, and realizing that maybe you also share similar struggles, hearing how they have surpassed or risen above these obstacles and then being inspired yourself to go back home and try out these solutions. I mean, we have definitely stayed connected so we can catch up with each other and say thank you. Thank you for our conversation. Thank you for what you shared with me, because my area of the world is a little bit better because of us meeting in New York at the AFS Youth Assembly. I’m most excited to engage with a whole new group and network of young leaders changing the world.
From your perspective as a young educator, what would be the advice you would give to young people who are similar to you, who want to make a difference, who are perhaps also interested in advancing the SDG 4 on education or doing something good in their communities?
My advice to young people is to not worry so much about how crazy and big and amazing accomplishments of other young people or other people might be on, for example, social media or on the news. I believe that everyone has started from a place that was just a tiny step. I’m a big believer in the ripples that are created with any small action. And just because you see these amazing changemakers being featured should not let you be scared to try something different, because that’s what young people can bring to the table, it is new, innovative, creative, and urgently needed solutions. And that does not have to start off with such a huge project or a huge program.
I believe that young people should just do what they can with what they have wherever they are in the world because positive change is infectious, positive change creates ripples. And what’s amazing is, and you’ll find this out at the AFS Youth Assembly, is people are very much inspired by small actions. These influences, these ripples inspire others to do the same where they are. Again, no matter where you are or what you have, I think it’s very important that we all collectively take at least small actions. Because collectively, if we all did this, we are collectively pushing the needle towards a better future for us all, forging our shared future as one, and that to me is enough.