“I couldn’t ask my mother for the box of donuts she promised when I finished elementary with honors. I couldn’t even ask my father for money to use for my projects and research paper in high school,” SM Foundation Scholar Joebert Palma, Jr., recalled.
Joebert grew up in Davao as the eldest among four siblings. His family survived on the meagre pay that his father earned working as a driver while his mother took care of the family as a simple housewife.
“As a child, it was hard for me,” he recounted. “There was almost literally nothing that I could ask for that my family could give.”
Despite this, Joebert held on to the hope that life will take a turn for the better. One fateful day however, that hope was tested.
“My father shot and killed a thief who tried to steal my grandfather’s motorcycle,” said Joebert. “He ran away with my mother, who left with my father to protect him, leaving me and my siblings alone for some time. We continued our last months of school barely scraping by.”
Joebert’s hope grew even dimmer as he and his younger siblings transferred to Gensan after the incident. With the little money they had, they had to make every peso count. They walked for kilometers just to get to school and had to ration their food just to be able to have enough for everyone to eat.
“Looking back at that time, I can say that I was depressed. I was so sure that I wouldn’t be able to go to college. And for a moment, I accepted that possibility,” he said.
But Joebert continued to hold on despite his family’s dire circumstances. He worked hard at school and pursued in his studies. It wasn’t long before his high school guidance counselor took notice of his grades and urged him to apply for the SM Foundation Scholarship Program. This is where his hope was born anew.
“I got my hopes up for a good tertiary education; my guidance counselor believed in me and made me feel that I can be someone,” he said. Backed by his guidance counselor, Joebert applied for the scholarship and took up a degree in secondary education specializing in science, a subject he excelled in and is close to his heart.
He graduated cum laude earlier this year from the Notre Dame of Dadiangas University in General Santos. Now a teacher, Joebert was one of the three SM Scholar-graduates who were chosen to share their life story at the SM Foundation SM Scholars 20th Presentation of Graduates last May 25.
As he addressed his fellow SM Scholar-graduates and the guests present during his speech, Joebert stressed the importance of holding on to one’s hope in spite of the challenges faced in their lives.
“With nowhere to go, I HOPED,” he said. “Now, we are all here because of HOPE.”
“SM backed me up and kept me going, supporting me through full tuition and allowances which allowed me to comply with all of the requirements my studies demanded,” he said. “Now, here I am, a proud and passionate science teacher working under the senior high department of a private school. I wouldn’t have this if it weren’t for SM.”
Along with Joebert, SM Foundation lauded its latest batch of SM scholar-graduates during the event—225 graduates with 73 (as of May 27) finishing with honors. This is the Foundation’s 20th batch since its college scholarship initiative started in 1993.
To date, SM Foundation has helped over 2,385 SM scholar-graduates obtain a better life by providing an opportunity for them to finish their college education. Most of its graduates are now gainfully employed or running their own businesses here and abroad while a number of them have opted to work with SM and its related companies.