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Head to head: Avante, Lurzano look toward a more advocacy-driven COS

Having built up a wealth of experience in advocacies inside and outside the College of Science (COS), two-time FOCUS2019 Batch President Gabie Avante from Santugon sa Tawag ng Panahon (Santugon) and Jed Lurzano from Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista (Tapat) impart how they each plan to help students tide through online learning concerns and mold them as socially engaged and future-ready Science majors.

On their background

The LaSallian: How has your past experience in leadership roles in the COS helped prepare you for the college president seat?

Gabie Avante (Santugon): As a two-time batch president, the experience has [shown] me talaga how diverse COS can be, and it has made me realize that there are still problems and still issues that need to be addressed within the college. And I think, as batch president, I was able to lead and to serve with my co-elected and executives. I believe that our batch government became an empowering space for students so that hindi lang ako ‘yung nagli-lead but I help other people lead as well.

Jed Lurzano (Tapat): So ‘di ako elected, but during my frosh year, I’ve joined many organizations such as Societas Vitae, FOCUS2019, and nagjoin ako agad sa Science College Government (SCG), and to add, I joined Red Cross Youth din. So ‘kahit di ako elected, andaming opportunities and naexpose ako sa malawak na mga issues na nakikita ko, and I think that gave me the opportunity na alamin kung ano talaga ‘yung dapat nating unahin na mga issues. And I think the variety of the opportunities na binigay sa akin, siguro that’s what helped me to be a leader na ngayon

The LaSallian: Aside from roles in COS, you have both also had experience being part of external organizations. What takeaways do you have from those endeavors that you could apply within your college?

Lurzano: Sumali ako sa Red Cross and sumali din ako sa Boto ng Kabataan. So, upon joining Red Cross, narealize ko na hindi lang dapat within the DLSU community ‘yung tinutulungan natin, marami pang iba diyan outside Manila, and joining Boto ng Kabataan…I realized na parang ang layo pa natin dun sa goal [of] educating the masses. ‘Yun ‘yung gusto ko din dalhin sa COS na hindi lang dapat sa COS maghahanap ng pagbabago, dapat tayo din mismo ‘yung mageducate sa masa, tayo din mismo ‘yung pupunta sa malalayong lugar para tumulong sa tao.

Avante: I am a co-founder of Sustainable PH Youth. I’m also a host and volunteer for the main org, Sustainable PH, and actually, this journey started because of FOCUS2019. We had a webinar, and we invited a speaker who was the co-founder of Sustainable PH. So through that I was given the opportunity to co-found the youth org. I guess some key takeaways from this was how important sustainability is not just in science but…as a whole in society, and being able to volunteer in this platform enabled me to pursue my advocacies. And it’s very unique na may science background ako kasi mas naiintindihan ko siya, and I hope that I can also bring that to the college to show them sustainable solutions [and] a sustainable lifestyle.

On the status quo

The LaSallian: What would you say is the biggest issue your college is currently facing? What are your plans to address this?

Avante: I think one thing that the online setup has resulted in was a barrier in communication, and it’s really important to have effective, efficient communication between the students, the USG, and the admin…If elected college president, I would try my best to bridge this. We actually have a project called Assistance, which aims to give different types of student support, because I guess another factor with the online setup is that our laboratory classes, some are adapted online and some are deferred for face to face. So with this project called Assistance, we aim to give financial laboratory support, emotional support, and most importantly, communication support because COS students, like myself…struggle as well.

Lurzano: I think that in College of Science, ‘yung pinakamalalang problema nito ngayon is ‘yung online classes and ‘yung laboratories na naging online na nga. So in COS kasi, hand in hand ‘yung lecture and laboratory classes, and with all of our laboratory classes naging online, nagsa-struggle ‘yung students, ‘yung academics nila naapektuhan. With that, I’m lobbying for a structured guideline for limited face-to-face classes. I will issue survey forms…like asking students kung ano ‘yung quarantine status nila, makakabalik ba sila sa DLSU…Kasama din dapat na SCG tutulong sa admin na magbigay ng free face masks, face shields. Basically, it’s like kung ano nakikita natin sa other universities like limited face-to-face. 

I have another project din if given na maging face-to-face na tayo na Balik Tanaw sa COS…I will request sa admin na one week para magconduct ng LEAP-like classes where students can enlist to…those laboratory activities na namiss nila. So, for example, ako comparative anatomy laboratory [class], puwede siya balikan tapos maexperience ng students ‘yung necessary skills, competencies na dapat nga matutunan, so before they graduate, sana maexperience nila yun.

The LaSallian: Completing laboratory, thesis, and practicum courses have been a challenge in the online setup given the lack of access to physical facilities and technical instruments. How do you plan to help students in completing these academic requirements?

Lurzano: Gusto ko palawakin na not just webinars but workshops, assistance, [and] publication materials na makakatulong sa students. Each department dapat tumulong dun. Actually, hindi lang thesis and practicum ‘yung kailangan nating isipin but boards as well kasi meron tayong NMAT, meron din tayong chem boards. So I will help the departments to be [the] logistics arm of the college para tulungan ‘yung mga students na…we’re preparing them for their future.

Avante: I actually have a project called Student Experience and Engagement Series, and it tackles internship, fellowship, and practicum programs for COS, so it aims to bridge the gap between students and companies…Our Vice Dean was very open naman for students to propose programs that they want to pursue for practicum. 

With regards to thesis and labs, I believe that there might be a bubble in DLSU Laguna [Campus], so if that does happen, I would provide support, may it be financial for the students kasi…I think for some time sila magsistay there…Overall, I just want to bridge the gap and help students. Kahit online man siya, there [are] still a lot of opportunities for students, and I think it’s important to make them realize that those opportunities exist and that we’re ready to help them. 

The LaSallian: How would you assess student services and the enlistment experience in the college since the shift online?

Avante: Well, the last two terms, our Student Services was a system that was improved naman. It was integrated, meaning that there was communication between batches. Nonetheless, I believe that there’s still improvements to be made…there was an instance last term where students were automatically dropped with little notice or, like, last minute notice. So I think we just need to be more proactive and try to see what are the possible problems that can occur during enrollment and enlistment, then tackle that early.

Lurzano: Tama sinabi ni Gabie. I commend FOCUS2019 for that, maganda kasi Student Services nila. Tama din na…we should lobby for a stronger system, ‘yung tayo mismo. Pero I would like to suggest din sa admin na siguro pwede natin gawin to eliminate enlistment issues is to widen the gap of the schedule…What we can also do is have dummy runs. We can have USG electeds, sila ‘yung magparticipate sa mga dummy run so that if ever may mga issues sa enlistment or enrollment, makikita natin agad.

On extending beyond

The LaSallian: As science majors, how will you engage your constituents to apply their knowledge to national concerns like the COVID-19 pandemic?

Lurzano: Because I’m a national core content creator of Boto ng Kabataan for voters’ education, naisip ko din na sana dapat sa COS meron din tayong Voters’ Education Summit, but kasi alam na natin voters’ education, parang saturated na siya. So what I can do para maspecialize sa COS is that we should tackle the scientific agenda…we should tackle the healthcare system, we should tackle…what is the effect [on] the scientific agenda pag nagelect tayo ng good or bad leaders? 

Meron din akong misinformation program. Alam naman natin may mga anti-vaccine, mga flat earthers, ganun….Another perspective na pwede natin i-take is how can we DLSU students …educate the masses? How can we prevent other people from believing in such fake news? Dito pwede na din natin i-pasok ‘yung national affairs in politics, hindi lang science.

Avante: When it comes to national issues, I have a project called Focusing on Youth. So it’s voters’ education, pero more on who are the candidates running? What are their platforms [and] credentials? It also focuses on youth empowerment and, especially, citizen awareness. I think it’s important na as science students, we’re aware of, like what Jed said, ano ba ‘yung role ng science sa society? How can science help solve issues? If we follow a science-based solution for the pandemic…the response would have been better. 

For the external side naman like from Sustainable PH Youth, I was inspired din to come up with a project called Advocacy Summit…it allows students to actually actualize their advocacies…and we bridge the gap between us the students and NGOs so that hindi lang sila puro publicity materials, di lang puro awareness. It’s more on taking action and…students can actualize their own advocacies.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

By Frank Santiago

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