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Perseverance and determination paid off for SMFI scholars

This year's theme for SM scholar-graduates' presentation 
Giving dignity to oneself – rising from poverty, putting food on the table and sending siblings to school – is the main goal of every ‘poor’ student who graduates from college. Among other circumstances, a poor student is one whose family does not have funding for his or her education, who lives in a place of conflict or is at risk of conflict or who may be vulnerable to violence on his long and hazardous journeys to and from school and one who suffers hunger and malnutrition – all because of poverty.

Most of the 225 scholars of the SM Foundation, Inc. (SMFI) who graduated this year knew this, having grew up in situations like these, and at one point in their lives had gave up hope for a brighter future. Indeed, the road to success is bumpy but they persevere with the help of SMFI who shouldered their tuition fees and miscellaneous expenses upon enrollment and afforded them with monthly stipend all throughout their college life.
The graduates sing for their benefactors, the Sy family of SM

At the recent presentation of batch 20 scholars held at the SMX Convention Center at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City, aptly themed ‘Dream big, Work hard,’ the graduates from Southern Luzon, the Cordilleras, Bicol region, the Visayas and Mindanao took center stage and expressed their gratitude to mall magnate Henry Sy, Sr. and his family who envisioned the scholarship program for deserving public high school graduates.

According Carmen Linda Atayde, SMFI’s Executive Director for Education, this batch of graduates produced four summa cum laude, 11 magna cum laude, 44 cum laude and 12 graduates with academic distinction, comprising 32.6 percent of the total scholar graduates. They flew to Manila for the presentation ceremony and were billeted in hotels located around the SMX area. Among those we had the chance to meet were accountancy graduates Marvic Denosta, Jemmah Maclang, Diana Cubillas and civil engineer hopeful Ma. Theresa Duero.

Denosta graduated with BS Accountancy, Summa Cum Laude, from Far Eastern University. Maclang, who graduated from Ateneo de Naga University, recounted how she was devastated when her mom got afflicted with cancer and eventually died when she was on her second year. “Somehow, my scholarship with SM has consoled me and my family that I could go through my studies. Cubillas, on the other hand, shared how she nearly lost hope when her father got severely sick. So despite her scholarship, she said she did some tutoring job to help her mom who worked as baby sitter. The three would be hurdling the CPA licensure exam in October, saying they have already received big discounts from the review centers they intend to study.

Meanwhile, the cum laude from the National University, Duero, said she intends to travel for more six months from Bulacan to Manila to pursue her engineering review. “Kung nakaya ko magbyahe for five years araw-araw para mag-aral, kaya ko rin to’ng review for sure,” she said optimistically.  

Every year, the foundation gives the scholars opportunities to work with SM during semestral breaks and summer months. Likewise, the graduates are interviewed for employment opportunities offered by the SM Group of Companies. Many have joined but they are not required to work for SM according to Atayde. The graduates themselves have found other ways of giving back.

Last year’s graduates, John Floyd Abrico and Emerson Torres, for instance, are lending their service while honing more expertise, at private firms. Abrico, who graduated with BS Electronics Engineering from the University of Negros Occidental-Recoleteos, now works with IBM-Philippines as Sales Professional. After passing the ECE Board Exam in October 2015, he said he was blessed to be one of the first 23 hires to experience IBM’s Early Professional Sellers’ (EPS) Program across ASEAN. 

“The scholarship granted me the chance to help my family. I am happy to share that I am now helping my mother in paying our bills and in paying the tuition fee of my younger brother who is also taking up engineering,” he said.  
While Torres, who graduated with BS in Civil Engineering from Bulacan State University, currently works as a Graduate Highway Design Engineer in Arcadis - Manila GEC, an international engineering firm. Like, Abrico, he’s doing his share in the family by sending siblings to school.

“SMFI have always find ways to help the needy and that is the spirit I always keep in my mind -- share. My piece of advice to my fellow youth is share everything that you can share: knowledge, time, money, talent and other blessings. Because after all, these are also gifts from God and we have nothing to boast for. Of course, we must stay humble and grateful,” Torres shared.

“Put your heart in everything that you do,” Abrico encourages his fellow youth. “Don’t allow the obstacles you face each day to discourage you from achieving your goals in life. Pray hard and go where your hearts lead you. You will be amazed of the beautiful things that will transpire.” 

Established in 1993, the SM scholarship program has given opportunities for poor but deserving high school graduates to enroll in the following college courses: Accountancy, Civil Engineering, Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Electronics and Communications Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Elementary Education, Information Management, Information Technology, Mechanical Engineering, and Secondary Education Major in Biology, Chemistry, English, Mathematics or Physics. 

Partnering with the SM Foundation are 82 colleges and universities. From the time it was established, the scholarship program has since produced over 1,900 graduates. Aside from the college scholarship program, the SM Foundation also supports technical-vocational (techvoc) students enrolled in Don Bosco’s TVET Center and Punlaan School.  

For school year 2016-2017, since there will be fewer scholars matriculating for four- and five-year baccalaureate degrees due to the full implementation of the K-12 basic education curriculum, the foundation is increasing the number of techvoc scholarship slots to 1,000  in various Don Bosco schools nationwide and in other techvoc institutions, according to Atayde. 
For updates on the SM scholarship program visit


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