Investing in the future

MANILA, Philippines — Beyond being handed a crisp diploma or tossing one’s graduation cap with fervor, for many SM scholars, the completion of a college education is everything.

“Everything” means being able to share a plane ticket with your father on his first trip to Manila or being able to celebrate your debut with the money you’ve saved as part of your hard-earned allowance. Sometimes “everything” is being able to treat your family to their first meal at a popular fast food chain.

Similar to SM founder Henry Sy’s own journey, SM scholars have lived and survived the University of Hard Knocks before the doors of SM Foundation opened to them.

Henry Sy speaks at the De La Salle University commencement exercises where he was conferred an honorary doctoral degree in Business Management in 1999.

Henry Sy speaks at the De La Salle University commencement exercises where he was conferred an honorary doctoral degree in Business Management in 1999.

Henry Sy speaks at the De La Salle University commencement exercises where he was conferred an honorary doctoral degree in Business Management in 1999.

Twelve-year-old Sy only had ten centavos when he traveled from China to Manila. “I came to the Philippines to follow my father who came here earlier, looking for a better life. I helped my father in our sari-sari store. I also asked him if I could go back to school so I could learn English and improve myself,” said Sy in a speech.

Henry Sy speaks at the De La Salle University commencement exercises where he was conferred an honorary doctoral degree in Business Management in 1999.

At a young age, he already realized the value of getting a good education. “I went to Quiapo Anglo School and started in Grade One again. In Grade Four, I asked my teacher if I got high grades, could she give me a promotion. She smiled and said, ‘Only if you get a grade of over 90 percent.’ I studied hard. In one year and one summer, I finished Grades Four and Five. The following year, I went to Grade Six. In five years, I completed grade school. Even when I was a young boy, I had a plan for my life.”

Today, SM is the country’s largest conglomerate with businesses in retail, property, banking and more.

Founded by Sy in 1993, the SM Foundation’s college scholarship program started with 100 scholars on its first year. To date, it has supported almost 4,000 scholars, covering full tuition and monthly allowances. Scholars can work at the SM Stores to earn extra income.

Upon finishing their degrees, scholars participate in an exclusive job fair by the SM group. They are always welcome to join the company but are not obliged to do so.

Sy has always believed that “education is the great equalizer.” For Tatang, as he is fondly called by colleagues and employees, one of the most impactful ways to make a difference in a community is through helping a student attain a college degree – its multiplier effect goes on as that graduate eventually becomes capable of helping his family, the company he will work for and the society as a whole.

Source:  Philippine Star