YSEALI Spring 2022. Gwyneth Marie Vasquez from Ateneo de Davao University (right) with fellow Filipino participants Grant Warren Lu from Mindanao State University – Maguindanao (middle), and Melanie Joy Feranil from IBON Foundation (left).

ARIZONA, USA—An undergraduate anthropology student at the Ateneo de Davao University was one of the 20 fellows from Southeast Asia who were selected for the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) academic exchange program at the Arizona State University (ASU) in Phoenix, Arizona from February 25 to March 15, 2023.

Fourth-year student Gwyneth Marie M. Vasquez was chosen alongside two other Filipinos to represent the country in YSEALI’s Civic Engagement Program at ASU.

Other participants hail from different countries in Southeast Asia.

As an international exchange program, YSEALI seeks to expose its fellows to “academic and community activities that will improve their understanding of civic engagement, leadership development, diversity, and democracy, and much more,” reads the website of the YSEALI Institute of Civic Engagement.

It also includes “an educational study tour to other areas of the United States, where the fellows will meet with local, state, private, and nonprofit organizations working in the field,” writes the US Embassy in the Philippines.

By the end of the program, fellows are expected to “develop innovative and practical plans to become engaged citizens in their communities,” it adds.

Although Vasquez qualified for the fellowship in March 2022, the program was initially conducted online, while the in-person component commenced in February this year due to Covid-19 restrictions.

YSEALI is sponsored by the United States Department of State for emerging young leaders in Southeast Asia.

Article and Photos by Ms. Gwyneth Marie M. Vasquez