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SM scholar-graduates now full of hope

MANILA, Philippines - From the different stories of misfortunes and hardships, 225 graduates under the SM Scholarship program, along with their families, now face the world full of hope for a better life.

 The 225 graduates participated in the 17th graduation ceremonies of SM scholars at the SMX Convention Center, where Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, Archbishop of Manila was keynote speaker; tycoon Henry Sy Sr., his wife, Felicidad and children, along with key officials of the SM Group of Companies, teachers and deans of the colleges and universities of the graduates, joined hundreds of proud parents and relatives.

The graduation was both a tearful — since the narratives of parents and select graduates on how they hurdled the difficulties drew tears in the eyes of Sy and guests — and happy occasion that ended with the recitation of the pledge of loyalty to the SM Foundation Inc., which was led by two alumni, Loida Ongtengco-De Vera, who is now an executive of SM and Benjamin Osias who flew in from his work in Singapore.

There were four summa cum laude graduates this year: Cedric Baybayon, Jennifer Camenting and Dan Jeward Rubis, all of the National University and Jessica Aliana Habunal of Central Philippines University. Baybayon is among the 50 scholars Harley Sy, president of SMIC, supports personally aside from those in the Foundation. Twenty-six of them are among this year’s graduates.

For Marie Bernadette Y. Tan, 20, a BS Pharmacy graduate of Centro Escolar University; Kamille Samantha Sipalay, 20, BS Computer Science major in Information Technology at Asia Pacific College; Julius Glenn Sison, 22, BS Computer Engineering at Baliuag University in Bulacan and Kirby Aguaras, 20, BS Accountancy at Central Philippine University of Iloilo, the scholarship was the biggest bounty they had in their lives that opened doors for a brighter tomorrow for them and their families.

They all came from struggling average to poor families, who could never imagine having to step into college and finish a degree someday, because of their hopeless financial conditions.

Tan for one applied for an SM scholarship just a few days before enrolment as one person was removed from the list by SMFI; took the exams and interview and passed. So she enrolled as a full scholar of SMFI. During her four years in college, she could not work during summers and special occasions at SM since she was already a student assistant at the CEU Pharmacy. She dreams of landing a job at Watson’s after passing the board this October. She is thankful for the Sys for giving her a chance to pursue her dreams.

Sipalay was a full scholar along with all enrolled at the Pasig City Science High School. She went through a series of interviews and chose the Asia Pacific College as it is the center of excellence in IT. Coming from Marikina, she commutes daily using the MRT to APC at the South Superhighway. She is required to maintain an average of 2.5 (the highest grade in APC is 4 and the lowest is 1) to be able to maintain the scholarship which grants her P120,000 free tuition a year plus stipend. Now she plans to apply with big IT companies like HP and IBM. She worked at SM Investments as an intern earning P256 per day. Eventually she plans to take up master’s degree.

Sison, whose life was featured in the audio visual presentation shown during the program, graduated magna cum laude BS Computer Engineering at the Baliuag University. When SM Baliuag was opening, the SMFI immediately looked for a school to tie up for its scholarship program. Since he finished valedictorian in the public school in Baliuag, he applied for SM scholarship. The scholarship came when he was already enrolled (he paid a downpayment of P5,000 for that semester which was refunded by SMFI when he qualified).

His mom is a single parent and he helped her by repairing computers (both software and hardware) and tutoring. What he earned from these jobs, he used in paying for the education of his younger sister, also in college. Since his sister’s computer science course is only four years, she graduated with honors a year earlier also at Baliuag University.

 Previously, his mom was an accountant with a small retail store but lost her job so the burden of supporting the family rested completely on his shoulder. He is now working in a software company in Makati, MDI solutions, but after a few years of work experience and passing the board, he plans to work at SM Investment.

Aguaras, graduated high school at a Baptist school in Iloilo. Being in the top section, they were all asked to apply for SM scholarship. He applied in December, was given interviews and exams in February and was informed in May that he qualified as a scholar so he enrolled at the Central Philippine University in Iloilo. He was 0.03 short of making it to cum laude as his final average was 1.7 and the Latin honor was 1.63. He is now reviewing for the October board.

 “When I pass I want to work at SMDC which is my dream. My parents want me to work in government as municipal accountant, but I prefer to work in private corporations like SM or SGV and other noted firms.” His farmer-father is unemployed so the pressure is on him to bring siblings to school with the youngest now in first year in a public high school.

 Since he is in Manila now, he applied for a job at the Jobs Fair held at SMX. During his board review he plans to tutor English to Koreans to support his siblings.

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