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Civic and Student Organizations as CATALYST of Citizenship

posted Oct 24, 2011, 5:53 AM by Catalyst of UA&P

By Raf Manalili

The 1987 Constitution classifies the Philippines as a democratic and republican State which emphasizes the rule of the people through the election of leaders and the protection of human rights (De Leon & De Leon Jr., 2011). Many people around the world consider the Philippines as a democratic society because it identifies itself as such through the said provision in its Constitution. However, the real notion of Democracy is just not limited to a mere statement that declares the democratic identity of a given nation. Many other factors are taken into consideration before a country can be regarded as a true bastion of democratic ideals. Aside from the existence of human rights and elections, another element that should be present is the concept of Citizenship in a given society or community.

To begin with, Citizenship is a social and political idea that has existed in this world ever since the time of the Greek civilization. Aristotle (1958), a political thinker, defines Citizenship as the sharing “in the administration of justice and in the holding of office” (p. 93). This means that a citizen for him is primarily a person who can actively participate in the affairs of the government. Other philosophers who came after him added up more ideas that gradually developed the concept of Citizenship. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, for example, modifies the theory of Aristotle by saying that persons are citizens when they actively participate in processes of deliberation and decision-making (as cited in Leydet, 2006). St. Thomas Aquinas, on the other hand, describes a good citizen as someone who thinks about common good and acts accordingly in any situation that is present (as cited in Koritansky, 2007).

Furthermore, Randy David (2008) states that the modern citizen has three roles to fulfill, namely: (1) Understand the requirements of modern society and participate conscientiously in it; (2) Alleviate the pain and suffering that other people are experiencing; (3) Ensure that those who make decisions in the people’s name are held accountable. They must be able to accomplish these tasks in order for them to exercise their Citizenship properly. In other words, a person can never become a real citizen unless he contributes to nation building by helping other people and by participating in social issues that really subsist in human society. Citizenship, therefore, pertains to the active participation of an individual in the affairs of a society and in the integral development of its members.

In connection to this, the said concept is very important because a democratic system can only work if the citizens take part in the different concerns of a given society. One thing that proves this statement is the voting of incoming officials during a country’s elections. For instance, the government would become the stronghold of corrupt officials if the people do not participate properly in this political activity. Aside from this, various kinds of cheating would rampantly happen if the persons do not cooperate in the guarding of their ballots.

Now, research has shown over the years that the college experience has “a significant socializing effect on political beliefs and other values, and that outcomes such as maturity of moral judgment, racial and religious tolerance, and civic and political participation are positively associated with educational attainment” (Colby, Ehrlich, Beaumont, Rosner, & Stephens, 2000, p. xxviii). Many aspects of College life such as the lessons in civic education classes actually impart the idea of Citizenship among the students (Sax, 2000). However, Print (1999) states that extracurricular activities in school are far more influential than classroom activities in instilling the attitude of active participation in civic affairs. This means that formal education in college should be supplemented by extra-curricular activities in order for the notion of Citizenship to be further imparted to college students.

Among the extra-curricular activities that are in present in most schools, joining civic and student organizations is considered as one of the best ways to develop the attitude of civic participation in the person (Tin & Khoong, 1999). These kinds of organizations play an important role in the Citizenship of the students. To begin with, certain organizations expose their members to social and political issues that strengthen their desire to be involved in society. These groups usually engage themselves in topics like environmentalism, good governance, human rights, agrarian reform, and societal change. According to Colby et al. (2000), the engagement of students in moral and civic issues is very “essential to the full development of informed, committed, socially responsible, and politically engaged citizens” (p. xl).

Next, many organizations provide their members with opportunities to serve society through volunteer works and outreach activities. These occasions then enable the students to form a habit of active participation in endeavors that uplift the lives of various people especially the needy. According to Sax (2000), volunteer works during their undergraduate studies improve the students’ attitude of active participation after college. One example of a common outreach event is the practice of organizing medical missions in rural communities and depressed areas. Student-initiated groups go to these places and deliver medical services to people who are not capable of sending themselves to primary hospitals. In addition, they provide the people with free medicines and materials that help them cope with certain diseases like cough and fever.

Moreover, student organizations instill the attitude of active participation to its members by giving them the chance to lead others in projects that involve several volunteer works. This statement is true especially to those people who are holding official positions in these groups. For instance, the President of an organization has the opportunity to lead the group in the execution of a given project. He actually forms a habit of active participation by leading his people because he does more jobs and they require him to go beyond the usual tasks of an ordinary member. It also enables him to form this attitude because it gives him more opportunities to participate in the different aspects of the said project.

Now, CATALYST is a civic and student organization in the University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P) which enables the college students to develop an attitude of active participation in the different affairs of society. In other words, the organization gives the students the opportunity to become better citizens who contribute a positive change in this world. The primary objective of this group, as stated in its Constitution, is the internal development of the individual in and through the field of social responsibility (CATALYST, 2010). It also aims to instill in its members the values and skills of active participation, teamwork and volunteerism (Ibid.). The organization plans to achieve this by providing its members and other UA&P students with opportunities for meaningful service to individuals, communities, and sectors of Philippine society that are most in need (Ibid.). These activities are designed to develop in its members and other UA&P students the virtue of socio-civic concern and related virtues like leadership, character, initiative, dynamism, solidarity, team spirit, and service (Ibid.). Furthermore, the vision of CATALYST is the following, namely: (1) An organization that transforms lives through student service projects that uplift the economic, moral, and intellectual status of individuals, groups and communities, especially those that are in greatest need; (2) An organization that empowers other individuals and groups outside of UA&P to change lives in like manner; (3) An organization that prepares UA&P students to become in the future productive members, shapers and catalysts of positive change in society (Ibid.).

First of all, CATALYST contributes to the Citizenship of the students because it exposes them to social and political issues that increase their yearning for civic participation. One of the issues that the org is now pursuing is the controversial topic of Reproductive Health Bill or RH Bill. The members of CATALYST are doing their best to fight the bill and educate the people about the harmful effects of the proposed law. In fact, the org is the founding member of a youth coalition that is very much engaged in the fight against the said proposal. This alliance is named YUP or Youth United for the Philippines.

Second, CATALYST forms a habit of civic participation among the students because it organizes volunteer works and outreach activities that involve its members. Some of the activities that the org initiates include medical missions, house-building events, and educational talks. One example which proves the authenticity of this statement was the Medical Mission that the group organized last August of this school year. In summary, the members of the organization delivered basic medical services to the employees of the Assets and Facilities Management group. They also provided the staff members with medicines and supplements that would help them in their medical and nutritional needs.

Third, CATALYST instills the notion of Citizenship to its members because it allows them to lead those people who also take part in the implementation of the project. There are actually many opportunities for the members to take the lead and blaze a trail. This statement is true especially to those people who belong to the core group. Aside from the actual experience of leadership, the members also get to lead by undergoing talks and seminars that aim to unleash their capabilities and potential. These leadership opportunities enable the person to participate in society more actively.

In conclusion, the said example has definitely shown the importance of civic and student organizations in the life of a college student. They actually provide the undergraduates with opportunities for them to hone in themselves the attitude of active participation in the affairs of society. To put it simply, they empower the students to become better citizens. That’s why the University (UA&P) should do its best to promote the welfare and development of these organizations. It should not prevent them from pursuing projects that are actually beneficial for the whole community. The Office of Student Affairs and Operations Committee, in particular, should make the process of approving projects more quickly and easily. In addition, the University should support the civic and student organizations because they can actually help it form individuals who are “professionally competent, creative and enterprising, zealous for the common good, and capable of making free, morally upright choices, and who can thus act as positive agents of change in service to society” (University of Asia and the Pacific, n.d., para. 5).

Works Cited:

Aristotle. (1958). The Politics of Aristotle. (E. Barker, Ed.) London: Oxford University Press.

CATALYST. (2010). About Us - CATALYST. Retrieved October 13, 2011, from CATALYST of UA&P Website:

Colby, A., Ehrlich, T., Beaumont, E., Rosner, J., & Stephens, J. (2000). Introduction: Higher Education and the Development of Civic Responsibility. In T. Ehrlich, Civic Responsibility and Higher Education. Phoenix: Oryx Press.

David, R. (2008, January 5). Civic duty and national renewal. Retrieved September 14, 2011, from

De Leon, H. S., & De Leon Jr., H. M. (2011). Textbook on the Philippine Constitution 2011. Manila: REX Book Store.

Koritansky, P. (2007, December 28). Thomas Aquinas: Political Philosophy. Retrieved October 10, 2011, from Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Leydet, D. (2006, October 13). Citizenship. (E. N. Zalta, Editor) Retrieved October 10, 2011, from The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2011 Edition):

Print, M. (1999). Strategies for Teaching Civics and Civil Society. In M. Print, J. Ellickson-Brown, & A. Baginda, Civic Education for Civil Society. London: ASEAN Academic Press.

Sax, L. J. (2000). Citizenship Development and the American College Student. In T. Ehrlich, Civic Responsibility and Higher Education. Phoenix: Oryx Press.

Tin, C., & Khoong, A. (1999). Civic Education in Practice: The School Environment. In M. Print, J. Ellickson-Brown, & A. Baginda, Civic Education for Civil Society. London: ASEAN Academic Press.

University of Asia and the Pacific. (n.d.). Credo and Hallmarks of UA&P. Retrieved October 14, 2011, from University of Asia and the Pacific Website: