Last Batch of Yolanda scholars of SM Foundation graduates

 

By Rose de la Cruz

 

From the rubbles of Yolanda, which hit Eastern Visayas in November 2013, the last batch of 60 scholars (out of 100) finally completed their various 5-year courses from scholarships granted by the SM Foundation Inc. Those that graduated last year took four-year degree courses.

 

They now look more positively at life—having completed their college degree and would soon be preparing for licensure exams—but for those that finished last year, all of them are gainfully employed now.

 

They formed part of the 270 scholar-graduates that proudly marched at the 23rd annual presentation of SM scholar-graduates at the SMX Convention Center on Wednesday—where two finished summa cum laude; 15 magna cum laude, 32 cum laude and four academic distinctions. These awardees brought home gift certificates worth P10,000 (summa cum laude); P7,000 for magna cum laude; P5,000 for cum laude and P3,000 for academic distinction. All graduates were gifted with a Timex watch with their names engraved at the back.

 

The “Yolanda” graduates were booked by the foundation on the first plane out of Tacloban to be at SMX in time for the exclusive job fair organized by the SM Group for the scholar-graduates and the graduation program on Wednesday afternoon.

 

Interesting to note is that most of the graduates from Yolanda-stricken areas finished engineering courses, mostly civil engineering, for those that entered the Eastern Visayas State University in what could only mean they wanted to be part of the rebuilding process, particularly of their own homes that were ravaged by the strongest tropical cyclone in history.

 

For those that finished at St. Paul School of Professionals in Palo, Leyte, most of them took B.S. Accountancy while for those who finished in Leyte Normal University, education was the most popular. Education completers are bent on restoring the system and making the learning for children displaced and traumatized by the catastrophe more conducive.

 

A video that they presented at the program showed how each one of them struggled—and almost lost all hope in the process—to bring their lives back in shape. Some lost their kin and neighbors, a nightmare for the survivors.

 

Four of those that graduated from St. Paul School of Professionals were cum laude namely: Jessica Magadan, BS Accountancy; Jevie Carzon, BS Accountancy; Jerwin Bethoven del Pilar, BS Accountancy and Aileen Sabela, BS Accountancy (who was also the school’s scholastic awardee).

 

The regular scholarship program of SM Foundation continues in Eastern Visayas, but no longer for 100 applicants but below 50 as the foundation must spread this privilege to students in all areas of the country, especially those that are marginalized.

 

All 270 college graduates of SM Foundation’s scholarship program came from poor families with no means of pursuing higher education without the help of the foundation.

 

Though they were not as lucky as last year’s graduates—who were presented to SM founder, Tatang Henry Sy Sr., this year’s graduates just made do with a life-sized transparent fiberglass picture of their benefactor right at the center, to whom they vowed to pursue his legacy of helping lift out of poverty their families and communities, through education.

 

Tatang Henry Sy Sr., who died last January, began the scholarship on his belief that sending one kid to college would impact positively and lift the family and the community from poverty.

 

The scholarship program has produced 9,000 college graduates—all of them successful professionals or entrepreneurs here and abroad. The program was started by Sy Sr. in 1993, or 10 years after his personal philanthropic works (through the foundation) of donating to charitable institutions in 1983.

 

The graduates came from private and state-owned colleges and universities in courses like accountancy, engineering, IT, accounting technology, computer science, management accounting, mathematics, elementary and secondary education courses, business administration and financial management, and business administration and internal audit.

 

Despite the generous scholarship package, SM Foundation does not oblige scholars to work at any of the SM Group’s companies but only to make sure that once they have acquired the means, the graduates must send a sibling to college and eventually others who are also less fortunate in the community, explained Carmen Linda Atayde, executive director for education of SM Foundation.

 

The foundation has partnered with 119 private and government colleges and universities for its scholarship program across the country. (This is apart from its partnerships with 35 schools and colleges offering 2-year technical-vocation courses that this year enrolled 2,000 scholars, who often land lucrative jobs even during their on the job trainings here and abroad.)

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