The University of Northern Philippines proved that the university is a home for empowered student-leaders as the Student of Arts and Sciences Organization (SASO) was once again awarded as Outstanding UNESCO Club of the Philippines under the Social and Human Sciences Category during the 2021 International Assembly of Youth for UNESCO on December 10-12.

With the theme, “Youth for UNESCO in the New Normal and Beyond: Ignite. Engage. Empower”, SASO of the College of Arts and Sciences continuously embodies the university’s pursuit of quality and excellence in the field of student leadership. John Ray D. Barcena, BA Political Science IV and SASO Governor, was also awarded as 2021 Outstanding UNESCO Club Youth Leader in the Philippines (College Category). 

“This is my first award from UNESCO, but SASO has always been recognized as one of the outstanding UNESCO clubs even before I was not an officer of the organization. That’s why I’m really proud that we were able to maintain and improve what the previous officers of SASO has started despite the challenges brought by the pandemic.” He also extended his gratitude to the people who supported their undertakings. “I feel grateful and blessed because if not for the support of my fellow officers, students, the faculty and staff of CAS and most especially the UNP Administration. The organization won’t be able to achieve any of this without them. They gave us the strength to conduct programs and projects that we couldn’t have done alone.”

Out of the 37 declared Outstanding UNESCO Clubs in the Philippines, SASO was able to nip the award. The award recognizes organizations in the country which took actions while building coalitions across communities. It also highlights the organizations’ contributions in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and strengthening dialogue and trust between people and institutions at all levels.

“We honestly didn’t expect that any of this will happen. From the onset of the pandemic, we try our best to think of ways to engage and encourage students even if it was so challenging. I’m so thankful for my fellow officers and adviser who have worked tirelessly throughout this journey. Our adviser would always remind us that we can do this, that there is no challenge too big,” he added.

Barcena also shared his musings on student-leadership which is more challenging during this time of pandemic. “ We miss staying up late at school to work, to juggle papers and deadlines. We miss running in the hallway, going to one building to another under the heat of the sun. We miss speaking in front of audiences, crying and debating in our offices. We miss all of that during face to face, but we realized that we can still do all of this right now. It does not matter if we are far from another or if there is a pandemic, as long as we have the courage to make things work, then it is possible. In the end, we do this for CAS, for the students.”

The international conference brought together 350 UNESCO Clubs in the country as an avenue for youth mentoring, dialogue, and peer collaborations within the context of UNESCO’s mandate and the Sustainable Development Goals.

The UNESCO Clubs’ intrinsic mandate is to empower leaders to carry on the challenge of localizing efforts anchored on regional, national, and international declarations.

Various competitions and activities were also conducted during the international conference. Hannah Pauline Alcanciado, BS Psychology III, won first place in the Song Writing and Music Video Competition. The music video was edited by Marie Terese Quirapas, BA Political Science IV. Also, Jerrimae Rhose Ann Racudo, BS Psychology III, grabbed third place in the Poster Making Competition (College Category).

SASO is consistently awarded as Outstanding Mandated Student Organization in the university. The organization is also under the tutelage of Dr. Grace Garcia.

Written by: Jennielou Pigao | UNP-PIO Graphics: Students of Arts and Sciences Organization – SASO