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Amazing Grace |

Young Star

Amazing Grace

- Paula C. Nocon of the Philippine Star’s YS -
You might say that she’s an achiever, but that would be an understatement.

Marie Grace Tee Vera Cruz just recently graduated magna cum laude from UP Diliman, and was graduated from ICA as high school valedictorian. She was recipient of the prestigious Gawad Chancellor, Best Student Leader, of UP. As a student, she was Founder and EVP of the UP-Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations, and was Filipino representative to Canada for Junior Team Philippines, APEC Youth leaders, National Conference for Constitutional Reform, the Accenture Youth Leaders Conference and the Hitachi Young Leaders Initiative in Singapore.

Now, at the tender age of 22, she has just been hired as the youngest person in a managerial position at Shell Philippines, a rarity among fresh grads.

Perhaps grades do matter after all? Answers Grace, "I’ve gotten high grades because of luck! There was a bit of hard work there, but grades are just an indicator that I got the right teachers and studied the right things; I don’t think grades are an indicator of intelligence at all."

What really counts, she says, is "Passion. I’ve discovered that if I’m passionate, things just happen. Things just work out. It’s been like this since I was small."

Also a member of the Walang Ku-Corrupt Movement, an NGO she joined as a student, Grace is now looking forward to learning all that she can from working in a global corporation with a good corporate social responsibility platform. Eventually, she seeks to take her MBA, get married and have two to four kids, and ultimately work at an international organization like the United Nations or the World Bank.

So you might say that Grace is actually an over-achiever, and yet with the many other things this girl can accomplish for self and country in the future, it’s still possible that she’s still underachieving at the moment!

But either way, you could just say Grace is a Bright Young Thing.

What’s the best thing about your generation?

Our optimism. Despite all the cynicism and negativity around us we still have some positive energy and we still hope something will change. It’s the older ones who’d rather think that we’re doomed!

What’s the worst thing about your generation?

The bandwagon mentality. We tend to be swayed easily by so many influences. It’s hard for us to form our own personal opinion.

What advice would you give the older generation?

Keep an open mind. Listen.

What would you like to do for your country?

I’d really like to make a positive difference politically through non-government means. I’d like to see the electorate become more proactive in the people they elect, so that the right people are elected. An issue I feel strongly about is corruption.

Are you for charter change?

Yes! I feel that any constitution should evolve with the times.

Define success.

To be able to make a difference while inspiring others.

Define failure.

When you are not proud of yourself.

Define leadership.

It’s showing others the way and being a good example.

How has being half-Filipino, half-Chinese been an advantage to you?

I’ve had the best of both worlds. From my Filipino side I learned to be more courteous, malambing, accommodating and friendly. From my Chinese side I learned a good work ethic and the business side of things.

Do you agree that the youth are apathetic?

I think that people perceive us to be apathetic only because some of us haven’t found the right causes to fight for. You can’t force young people to care if you don’t show them the consequence of caring. You have to show them results—otherwise they won’t bother.

What’s the best thing about a UP education?

Having come from an all-girls Catholic school, studying at UP gave me a wider perspective. I had classmates from all over the Philippines, who had different thoughts and felt strongly on different issues.

The freedom I had in UP also allowed me to reinvent myself. It brought out some leadership qualities I never thought I had before.

It’s like that there—it’s your choice what you want to make of yourself. You can lead and excel, or you can be a bum. But it’s your choice.

What’s your stand on premarital sex?

If you must do it, do it responsibly.

What’s your stand on drugs?

I would say that at least 50 percent of young people have tried drugs at least once. And I think it starts from curiosity—just that. Wala lang. They do it for the adventure of it. It’s not a moral dilemma for young people anymore, it’s not a question of good or bad. It’s just a trip. But after one try, some never do it again, and then with others, they get hooked.

The thing is, drugs are readily available and peer pressure matters a lot too. If you can fix that part, then that’s an important step. When you talk to young people about drugs you shouldn’t be preachy, ’cause the more they won’t listen. The consequences should be explained carefully.

What do you think is the thing to look forward to in the future?

A lot of changes in our political structure. We’re maturing and evolving politically. We’re beginning to see how things really work—that there’s a better way of handling our problems, that a lot of our problems stem from lack of discipline and a sense of service.
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