It was last April when the Young Minds Academy (YMA) Season 9 kicked off. It has been almost three months since 93 youth were brought together by the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. – Eduardo Aboitiz Development Studies Center (RAFI-EADSC) under its leadership and citizenship focus area to develop them to become pro-active citizens and accountable leaders ready to serve the public and its interests.

Their YMA journey will never be rewarding without a series of experiential learning sessions, community visits, immersions, and project development.

And there is no greater joy than becoming a part of this family. I am so blessed to be among the YMA Season 9 scholars. Yes, you read it right. I am a YMAer. And this is my YMA community immersion experience.

More than just an immersion

Our three-day community immersion happened on June 6, 7, and 12. The YMA Season 9 scholars were divided into groups of five or 10 and were assigned to various communities all over Metro Cebu. Eagerness and enthusiasm had become everybody’s companions. Indeed, there were excitement and curiosity in every YMAer.

The immersion was an opportunity to immerse ourselves into the community and to put into actions all that we’ve learned from our sessions. We were fortunate to be in a place where we were accepted and welcomed unreservedly. We had our immersion at Barangay Buagsong in Cordova, the “home of the bakasi (saltwater eel) and other seafood”.

For just roughly two hours travel from Cebu City, we arrived at our destination. Luckily, a host family was waiting for us. They had been our confidants. As a team, we then reviewed our planned activities for our entire stay in the community. Our purpose was to engage ourselves in the community, to be with them, and to experience how it is to live like them. We went there with open hearts and minds hoping to achieve our goal.

Our entire immersion had been a fruitful one. We were able to accomplish our research using different methods. We conducted surveys, did a transect walk, and initiated a focus group discussion among the locals there. These methods were used to identify the assets, opportunities, needs, and threats of the community that we studied. Later on, our group will use the data as we propose a project that we can implement to benefit the community.

A whole new experience

Our immersion didn’t only give us what we need for the community. It also gave us more than just research results. For one, being with a very hospitable host family was such a noble experience. The immersion in bakasi haven also allowed us to strengthen our bond as a team and to build friendship especially with our mentor, our adult leader.

Barangay Buagsong also offered me (I mean, us) many firsts. It was my first time to eat a bakasi, from which Cordova is most known for. Sleeping in a barangay hall was also an unforgettable memory for me. Yes, we slept there. Talking with different kinds of people in the community during our survey also strengthened our interpersonal skills.

But more than anything else, the immersion gave me a whole new experience which I believe strengthened my character. Indeed, a journey of a YMAer will never be complete without experiencing a community immersion. //by John Nicko M. Coyoca


The Young Minds Academy is one of the programs of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc.- Eduardo Aboitiz Development Studies Center (RAFI-EADSC) under the Leadership & Citizenship Focus Area. It aims to build future leaders and influencers in a community that is ready to effect change.  

For more information about YMA, you may contact Jenny Lea Tan at (032) 411-1700 or 343-1700 or e-mail at jenny.lea.tan@rafi.org.ph, or visit www.rafi.org.ph or www.facebook.com/rafi.org.ph.

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