Education holds power like no other. It has long been a weapon against the perpetuating cycle of poverty and a stepping stone toward a better quality of life.
As a testament to this, UNESCO adopted the Convention Against Discrimination in Education in 1996 to underscore everyone’s right to education. Further strengthening this, international organizations committed to Millennium Development Goal 2 and Sustainable Development Goal 4 to promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
While equal access to education remains a challenge, hope continues to rise through groups that provide staunch support to global initiatives.
In a similar vein, the SM group–through its social good arm SM Foundation–carries out the belief of its founder, Henry “Tatang” Sy Sr. Tatang believed that when one family member finishes college, that scholar can help another sibling go to school and together, they can lift their family out of poverty. This gave life to the SM College Scholarship Program.
Reaching goals beyond the academe
Two of the newest SM scholar alumni building the foundations of their own careers are Clowie Castillo and Jessel Pineda.
Right after college, Clowie worked as an associate in a local thrift bank. As she started her career in the banking industry, being an SM scholar remained close to her heart, and the lessons that came with it continued to be valuable.
“I applied for an SM scholarship because I really wanted to graduate without making my family worry about the expenses. I tried my best to look for scholarship opportunities since I know that education will change our economic status and make my family’s dream come true,” she recalled.
“My scholarship is a life changer. It enabled us to reallocate our accumulated income to other necessities since we don’t have much. My parents didn’t have to worry about any of my school expenses. The program provided me with a monthly allowance, which also enabled me to buy books, uniforms, and other school requirements. We also had the privilege to work during Christmas and summer breaks, which gave me an additional allowance,” she added.
Finishing a Bachelor of Science in Accountancy with Latin honors (magna cum laude), she is now preparing for the CPA Licensure examination. While doing so, Clowie started to rewrite the story of their life—a dream she had for the longest time.
“When I look back and compare, I see that we’re currently living a better life and SM Foundation is one of the reasons behind this. Being an SM scholar made me focus on my studies in college and to not waste the opportunity given to me,” she said.
“I can now buy the things that I once considered as “wants.” It’s a way of pampering myself and my family and believing that we deserve it after all. Last Christmas, I bought new clothes and a pair of shoes for my younger brother. We’re also able to celebrate the holidays with sumptuous meals. It makes me genuinely happy knowing that there are some things that we can experience now because I have a stable job. And this is not possible if it wasn’t because of SM Foundation,” she capped.
Clowie’s SM scholar batchmate, Jessel, shares the same determination. While reviewing for the Licensure Examination for Teachers, she continued her family’s online micro-enterprise while supporting local farmers in her own way.
Her family’s online shop sells roughly a thousand plants per month. This doesn’t only help the Pineda family sustain their needs but also the local farmers in the remote areas of Rizal and Laguna, where she sources her products.
“As an SM scholar, I have seen why it matters to pass on kindness or spread social good, so our shop continues to patronize our local farmers. On the other, we remain respectful, adaptive, and flexible to meet our clients’ expectations and various needs. I believe that with discipline, things will be easier along the way,” she capped.
This could be your story, too
Similar to Clowie, deserving students from low-income families get the chance to change their lives through the SM College Scholarship Program.
The scholarship application starts from February 1 to March 31, 2022. Selected scholars can choose a specialization in accounting, information technology, engineering, and education with full tuition and monthly allowance. They can also have part-time job opportunities during semestral and Christmas breaks or possible job offers with the SM group upon graduation. Scholars also join fun-filled activities and enrichment programs.
To qualify, applicants must be Grade 12 graduates from public and private schools in the areas covered. The Applicants from private schools must have a DepEd voucher and must be Grade 10 finishers from public high schools. The General weighted average grade should be at least 92% or its equivalent for Grades 12 – 1st semester.