For 22-year-old Diane Besino Alberto, life never went around the way she had expected it to.

Diane had to stop schooling at the age of 16 because of financial problems within the family. She had to constantly transfer households between her separated mother and father, with the former get into a new marriage,  and the latter being too distant. She resented her situation at most.

“I was carrying the weight of all these problems and I didn’t know what to do with them so I just rebelled and went out with my group of friends, oftentimes not even going home,” Diane recalled, “but I didn’t really know yet at that time how negatively this would impact my life.

The problems within the family weren’t the bulk of it. Soon, she eventually found a way to get back to school but it was a year after where, following two miscarriages, Diane became pregnant at 17 with her live-in boyfriend.

“When I got pregnant, all the pain came rushing back in. It’s like my world crashed again,” Diane said, especially because her boyfriend at that time didn’t want to take responsibility of the child.

Diane thought she would never be able to move forward with her education given the fact that she was carrying a baby, and this was even heightened when she initially found out that she couldn’t apply for an out-of-school-youth-dedicated alternative learning school because she had a child.

Diane is one of the 27 completers of the SUGPAT Alternative School for Peacebuilding and the Arts.

In 2016, after being allowed to take the entrance examination of the SUGPAT Arts for Youth Development program, she began to see glimmers of hope for both her daughter, Sunshine, and herself.

“I’ve always dreamed of finishing school and becoming a lawyer in the future,” Diane quipped, “so the opportunity to get in the program and become one of the 30 art scholars was definitely the most thrilling news I’ve ever received in my life because it’s something that I can hold on to to help me achieve that dream.”

SUGPAT is an alternative arts-and-creativity-focused learning program for out-of-school youth affected by armed conflict in Mindanao. It is a project by Ateneo de Zamboanga’s Center for Culture and the Arts, with support from UNICEF Philippines. It has since grown into a program that is now part of the Department of Education’s alternative learning system (ALS) for out-of-school youth.

In SUGPAT, Diane was introduced to the arts and was able to master her craft in theater which has taught her the necessary life skills that Diane says she now brings with her everywhere she goes. These include oral communication skills, creative problem solving abilities, adaptability and flexibility, a healthy self-image, and most especially the ability to bounce back from disappointment.

“Compared to the rebellious Diane that I was before, I am now more responsible and in control of my life. I can definitely now face problems and think on my feet in finding the best solutions to these problems,” Diane admitted.

Strengthening her ability to become more independent and face problems in a more creative and innovative manner because of SUGPAT, Diane is now running a business involving beauty products.

“I am holding on to something now,” referring to her certificate of completion from the program, “and I know that I am just a few milestones away from getting to where I really want to be in life. If I’ve learned anything in this program, it’s to never, ever give up despite of everything. Keep fighting for your dreams, because you can!”

Being a part of SUGPAT has given Diane and her fellow scholars new lenses of viewing their everyday lives. With a renewed sense of love for family, a creative eye, and a restored willpower to continue pursuing her dream of becoming a lawyer, Diane now revels in the beauty of life regardless of it going around the way she never expected it to. ###

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