Level Up: Fellow Titan, Luke De Leon, On Creating Social Impact
Revolutionary political leader Nelson Mandela once said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” For many people, it is easier to say “One Day” than turn a plan to “Day One,” but not for our fellow Titan, Luke De Leon. In this feature article, find out how he became a man of action while serving his community, the Saemaul Undong way.
The year 2015 marked a significant milestone for Enderun Colleges. In partnership with Yeungnam University in South Korea, the Department of Saemaul Studies and Economic Development was launched to introduce a curriculum targeted at community development. It was through a successful model known in the 1970s as Saemaul Undong (SMU) or the New Village Movement that South Korea was able to rise from being a recipient to a donor country. In the month of June that same year, the school offered its first Economics program, with specialization in Saemaul Undong and International Development Cooperation. At its core, the four-year undergraduate course integrates economics in the fields of business, finance, sociology, community development, and even government administration.
Among its pioneer batch of students is 17-year-old Luke De Leon, who enrolled in the program to gain knowledge on what was happening beyond the business industry and what heavily influences it. Born in Malabon and raised in Antipolo, Luke has a knack for videogames and troubleshooting, but also enjoys building Legos. It was back in 2015 when he first knew about Enderun from their college fair at La Salle Green Hills and has considered the school as his second home ever since.
A New Perspective
“Enderun is fun as I got to learn new things and values, and I got to meet very good teachers and advisors,” Luke replied when asked how his stay in the college has been. “The thing I learned here that I will treasure the most is Saemaul Undong. It made me see a whole new perspective on what is there beyond the boundaries of CSR and Community Service.”
According to Dean Edgardo Rodriguez, President of Enderun Colleges, the course does not mimic Saemaul Undong but obtains the best lesson from it and localizes it to the Philippines by making self-reliance a top priority. “It’s a very organic model,” he said. “It involves a barangay level development, and it starts with a change in the mindset of the barangay. From leaning on the national government for its resources, to saying we can do this ourselves.”
A New Purpose
True enough, early last year, Luke proved age is just a number by putting Saemaul Undong into practice. What started out as a school project soon became Saemaul Women’s Community, the first of its kind in the country, which he founded and presently runs. Through the institution, less fortunate women from Barangay San Roque in San Pedro, Laguna are provided training and livelihood with the production and sales of pastillas, a popular Filipino delicacy. The program fully implements the SMU way and aims to usher financial independence, camaraderie, and strong work ethic among its members. Currently, the enterprise is going strong at a rate of producing 7,500 pieces a day with just over 15 women workers.
In addition, he plans to scale Saemaul Women’s Community by conducting workshops to empower female workers, providing education for their children, investing in equipment, acquiring property, and increasing market share with new product offerings.
In making this possible, Luke is thankful for the opportunity of learning from a diverse and experienced faculty, in the likes of Dr. Byeong Wan Lee, Professor JJ Lee, Mr. Ho Woong Yoo, Dr. Kwang Dong Lee and Ms. Marissa Felix, who he believes have shaped him to what he is right now. Unknown to many, he is also the founder and editor-in-chief of The Villager, the Economic Newsletter of Enderun and was accredited as a verified locator at the Cagayan Special Economic Zone Authority. On top of this, he was a member of the Philippine Chess and Robotics Team, captain of the NCAA Team, and president of Green Media Guild before entering college.
A Never-Ending Pursuit
Luke credits the ease of balancing his studies with extracurricular activities to the knowledge, motivation, and confidence he gets from his beloved professors, family, and loved ones. He admitted, however, that even though he is at the top of his game at such a young age, trials have been a part of his journey. “One of the biggest challenges I encountered was when my father was admitted to the hospital. I do not know what to do as he is my motivator and my teacher. I do not know what to do without him and my mom. Luckily, he got past it and survived. I got through it with the help of my siblings, my mom and my girlfriend who stood by my side.”
To surpass everything life throws, especially for someone who aspires to be in his chosen field, Luke is convinced one must possess “patience and perseverance. They should persevere to achieve their goals and they should have patience as some of these goals take time to come. I see opportunities for Economics students in large corporations working as advisers for the company. I also see open doors in government offices.”
Even before graduation, students under Enderun Colleges’ Economics program are provided avenues by which they may explore career opportunities through social entrepreneurship and internship openings ranging from multilateral organizations to government agencies locally and abroad. Luke has yet to take his first internship on August this year but is already on the lookout for learning opportunities that will support his dream to continue their family business and eventually venture out.
But one thing is for certain. Wherever his next pursuit may take him, he will be guided by words from his dad, who “always says, ‘Kung may tiyaga, may nilaga.’ and I believe in that.” For now, he is savoring a well-deserved break from school and embracing little successes as they come.
Photos courtesy of Luke De Leon