Nursing student aims to change lives by advancing literacy

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EDUCATION is a calling for College of Nursing sophomore Qjiel Mariano, who has set up a program that promotes literacy among Filipino children.

Mariano was recently acknowledged by the US-based organization Youth Service America (YSA) for his “Ladders to Literacy” program which aims to teach children how to “read and write while simultaneously helping them recognize the problems in their community.”

“It may not seem much, but literacy will determine the future of our generations [and] must be treated as a life skill,” he told the Varsitarian.

In 2018, the Philippines ranked last in reading comprehension among 79 countries.

The “Ladders to Literacy” program was recognized for increasing youth literacy rates and helping youth advocate for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in their own ways.

“Ladders to Literacy” volunteers not only teach children how to read and write; it also allows them to publish their own story books. Amid the pandemic, Mariano’s group has set up online storytelling classes to reach children despite curfew and quarantine restrictions.

He said the program’s system creates “a ripple effect where literacy is championed.”

“Through the program, we are able to give them a platform to become changemakers and help fellow children falling behind in school learn how to read and write. There is a different level of empowerment when someone is educated and he is able to teach others afterward and we let children feel that experience by helping them document their stories and giving them a voice to make a difference,” he said.

“This project means investing in the future of children and their communities.”

Aside from YSA, the “Ladders to Literacy” program had also received citations from the Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations (Tayo) Awards, the Jesse Robredo Grant Competition, the Global Institute for Youth Development and the ESD Okayama Awards in Japan.

When he was a UST Junior High School student, Mariano established the youth organization Streets to Schools, under which he launched his literacy program.

While juggling academic requirements and managing organizational duties had been difficult, Mariano said he will continue to campaign for education for sustainable development in Philippine classrooms to ensure that people can “co-create change while being in school.”

“Children need to take action on the SDGs as it is not only the government’s job or the United Nations’ duty. It’s everyone’s responsibility,” he said,

“We hope that our Ladders to literacy project becomes a global model of innovation where countries can use this idea to solve the problems in their community alongside children not as mere beneficiaries, but as stakeholders and participating decision-makers.”

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