In Photo: FIVE of this year’s SM Foundation scholars include (from left): Almelyn R. Labay, Bachelor of Education, University of the Philippines Diliman, magna cum laude; Rissa Mae Pasadas, Bachelor of Elementary Education, Leyte Normal University, academic distinction; Ismael C. Langit, BS Information Technology, Saint Louis University, Baguio City; Gaea Cygn Balo, BS Accountancy, Xavier University, Cagayan de Oro; and Jedda D. Pascual, BS Accountancy, Ateneo de Davao University, Davao City, summa cum laude.

A TOTAL of 330 scholar-graduates of SM Foundation from different parts of the country gathered during the annual testimonial dinner hosted by the Sy family at the SMX Convention Center, Mall of Asia in Pasay City on June 27.

Dubbed “Strive for Excellence,” the 22nd presentation of graduates served as the culmination of their college education, a key to the betterment of their future.

What made the event more meaningful was the pioneering group of Yolanda graduate-scholars who came all the way from Samar, Leyte and other provinces devastated by killer Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in 2013. Some of them completed their tertiary education with honors.

Among the scholar-graduates who survived the devastation of Yolanda was Rizza Mae D. Posadas, a graduate of Bachelor of Elementary Education at the Leyte Normal University.

“A big thank you to the SM Foundation because without them, I won’t have been able to finish college and fulfill my dream to become a teacher,” she said. “Because of the help of SM, I will make the best with what I learned. I will also help other people.”

The total number of students-scholars of SM Foundation affected by Typhoon Yolanda reached 140. Among the current scholars of the SM foundation are 115 students who were victims of the deadly supertyphoon. They are currently finishing their studies at different education levels in different schools in the Visayas.

“Striving for excellence is an important part of professionalism in any job or any task. And that is involved in everything that we do through quality,” said keynote speaker Loida Ongteco-de Vera, regional operations manager of SM Hypermarket.

True to its theme, this yearly event organized by the retail giant’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) arm was the biggest in terms of the number of its beneficiaries, who finished their studies from 105 partner-universities and colleges nationwide.

With their parents or guardians watching, the newest batch of graduates—of which 149 came from the National Capital Region; 115, Luzon; 12, Mindanao; and 57, Visayas—met their benefactors for the first time.

“I am honored being a fruit of the 60th fruitful years of SM,” Ismael C. Langit told the BusinessMirror. Langit, an SM scholar, was a graduate of Bachelor of Science (BS) in Information Technology at St. Louis University in Baguio City.

“It was really a great privilege for me because this is a one-time opportunity to have a free education that is sponsored by Mr. Henry Sy Sr. He’s really inspiring and motivating [with] what he does for us students to have a great career in the future,” he added.

Ongteco-de Vera, a former SM Foundation scholar herself and now a top executive in the country’s leading retail operator, said she is beholden for life for Sy’s benevolence that is beyond monetary.

“To tatang, Mr. Henry Sy Sr., I will be forever grateful to you, your family and to the SM Foundation. Thank you for all your teachings and support, be it financial, spiritual, and moral. Long live to all of you,” she said.

As a show of gratitude to the founder of the Sy conglomerate, the scholar-graduates performed a song number, which drew applause from the guests, led by the Sy family, friends, clients, SM executives, partner-schools, media and the academe.

They then presented to him a token of appreciation, followed by testimonials from top performing scholars. This year’s batch produced 104 graduates with honors. Leading them were two summa cum laude awardees, namely Jedda Pascual, who took BS in Accountancy at the Ateneo de Davao University; and Danielle Francis Olsen, BS Accountancy, University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos.

“My scholarship was a motivation and not really a burden [since it encouraged me] to study harder. It also really helped with our finances since my parents didn’t have to pay for my tuition,” Pascual said of the gains she had from the Foundation’s free education grant.

Meanwhile, 21 graduated with magna cum laude honors, 47 cum laudes, and 34 with academic distinctions.

All of the honor students, in turn, received gift certificates. Each graduate got a watch and their parents were given wall clocks.

Prior to the recognition rites, the graduates, many of whom were flown in from the provinces, were offered jobs in various SM offices within and outside of Metro Manila.

They queued the job-offer desks staffed by human resource executives of SM offices positioned at the entrance of the SMX Function Room for job interviews and subsequent offers.

“It is important for us to see the graduates find employment soon. There is no condition for them to work with SM after graduation. But they’re very welcome to work with SM,” said Carmen Linda Atayde, executive director for education of SM Foundation.

Like in the past, many of the graduates accepted the offers in abeyance until after they pass the professional examinations of their respective courses.

“I’m currently reviewing for the Board this October. If I pass, maybe I’ll work for SM as a payback to their help while I was studying my studies in college,” shared Gaea Cygn S. Bale, graduate of BS in Accountancy, Xavier University.

Established in 1983 by Sy Sr. and his wife Felicidad T. Sy, SM Foundation serves as the heart of the SM Group of Companies focused on social inclusion by nurturing and caring for underserved communities in the country.

Through the years, it continues to carry out and expand its programs in farmers’ training, Operation Tulong Express, health and wellness, as well as education.

Under the latter initiative, the Foundation maintains 2,000 college scholars yearly and another 2,000 tech-voc scholars. So far, more than 3,000 scholars have already graduated since its inception 25 years ago.

“The SM College Scholarship program started with Sy’s vision of helping send just one member of a marginalized family to college and working on the multiplier effect that that member would be able to send siblings to college, until the family reaches the full cycle of poverty alleviation,” Atayde said.

She said the latest graduate-scholars serve as proof of the fulfillment of the founder’s vision. She said: “His formula works. His vision and over 3,000 stories will be told from generation to generation of SM scholars, and their children and the children’s children.”

As the Group is involved in attaining the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the Foundation is equally focused and involved in achieving the seven goals pertaining to poverty alleviation, zero hunger, good health and wellness, quality education, reduced inequalities, sustainable cities and communities, and partnerships for goals.

Source: BusinessMirror