Allen, a young man from Antipolo City, Philippines, dropped out of school when he was 16, and his life began to spiral downward. Today, he feels fortunate to be enrolled in welding classes supported by the Wrigley Youth.Empowerment.Success (Y.E.S) program at Sienna College, and his prospects are looking up. “The welding program has been a great opportunity for me to find a good job with good pay,” Allen explains. “When I ended my schooling, I didn’t know what to do.” Now, as a result of the Y.E.S. program, which is an initiative of the International Youth Foundation (IYF), Allen has gained life skills, employability skills, and learned about reproductive health.

“After I made my first product in welding class, I got confidence in myself that I can make this a career and make an income for my family.”

For Allen, helping to support his family is his driving motivation in life. The middle child in a large extended family, he lives with his brothers and sisters and their spouses and children—all under the same roof. Yet only his father and youngest brother have jobs to support this growing household. 

Allen hopes this difficult situation will soon change. The welding skills he has learned will be marketable both in the Philippines and abroad, he says. “If the economy gets worse, I can go abroad and earn more as a certified welder.” Like many out-of-school youth, Allen had become idle since leaving school and was in danger of becoming caught up in risky behaviors. The job and life skills component of the Y.E.S. program have helped him to refocus on his goals for the future. “Now I have a chance to be a better person and family member,” he says. “I learned about responsibility, communication skills, work ethics, and working on a team. Now I am a better Allen Lopez.”

With the knowledge that he is learning a marketable skill, Allen has begun setting long-term plans for his life. He intends to work as a welder for a number of years so that he can provide for his family while at the same time save money. Once he has saved enough money as start-up capital, Allen hopes to return to Antipolo City and open his own computer shop. He believes that Filipino youth should have more access to computers so that they can improve their education. “This program helped me toward achieving my dreams by giving me skills that make me competitive.”

When asked what the most valuable part of the program was, Allen answers: “I went from nothing to something. I would tell other out-of-school youth that this program can also help them become productive in their lives.”

In 2010, Wrigley and IYF will continue training Filipino youth through a package of life and employability skills coupled with on-the-job experiences—giving young people such as Allen Lopez the opportunity to not only help support their families but to contribute to their communities as well.