IF THERE is one thing Jerielle Malonzo knows by heart, it is that there is great value in not being handed everything in life.
The one-time Insular Life Gold Eagle Scholar and now University of the Philippines (UP) instructor puts premium not only on hard work but on initiative as well. Jerielle recalled how she looked for financial aid almost as soon as she finished reading her UP admission letter. Unabashed by need and counting on the promise of assistance on her admission letter, she trooped with her father to UP Diliman’s Vinzons Hall to ask about available scholarships.
As valedictorian of her high school class and an incoming Mathematics major then, she qualified for two scholarship grants, one of which was from the Insular Foundation. Well into the first semester of her freshman year, Jerielle received the letter that would carry her through college—she was among the 16 UP students to be awarded Insular Foundation’s Gold Eagle Scholarship.
In December 2015, Jerielle received her first allowance, P35,500, in lump sum.
“First time ko makahawak ng ganun kalaking pera, kaya sobrang saya,” she recalled. “Nakabili po ako ng laptop. Bumili rin po ako ng bag. Kasi mabigat po lagi ‘yung dala ko, laging nasisira ‘yung bag ko, so bumili na po ako ng first branded bag ko; hanggang ngayon nagagamit ko pa. Nakapagbigay din ako sa parents ko.”
For the daughter of a retired daycare teacher and a pastor, the scholarship grant was nothing short of life-changing. It covered her full tuition, other fees and allowances for four years.
“Talagang iba ‘yung nagagawa kapag meron kang kumpletong suporta—emotional, mental and very important, financial. Iyon ang ibinigay sa akin ng Insular Foundation. Hindi niya ako hinayaang mag-isip pa ng ‘paaano kaya ‘yung baon ko bukas? Paano kaya ‘yung kakainin ko mamaya?’ Ang laking bagay,” she said, noting the punctual and unfailing provision from the foundation.
“Naalis na ‘yung burden; hindi ko naranasan mag-trabaho para mag-aral ako. I wouldn’t have excelled; hindi po siguro ako nakapag-focus, hindi naging ganun ka-enjoyable ‘yung college life ko kung hindi dahil sa Insular Foundation,” Jerielle said.
While she has a special fondness for the foundation’s Christmas parties, complete with presents, she said it was the regular updates and check-ins from the Insular Scholars group chat that helped sustain her during her grueling years in UP.
In time, Jerielle proved that success is indeed positively correlated to a combination of industry, initiative and investment.
In 2019, the self-confessed nerd marched as one of the 55 Summa Cum Laude graduates of UP Diliman, a record high for the state university. With that, Jerielle distinguished herself as one of only three Gold Eagle scholars to have graduated summa cum laude since 2008. She also secured a teaching position in UPD’s Institute of Mathematics one month ahead of graduation day.
But in accepting that teaching job, Jerielle had to decline an offer from Insular Life, the country’s first and largest Filipino life insurance company. She said the kind of education that Insular Foundation made possible for her had, in turn, inspired her to pay the kindness forward.
“Goal ko rin po noon na sana mabilis makakuha ng trabaho, makatulong sa mga magulang ko. Pero siguro po habang nasa UP, doon na ako nagkaroon ng awareness, ng pakialam sa mga nagaganap sa mundo,” she said. “Naging goal ko na sana after kong mag- aral, ‘yung trabaho ko hindi lang para sa akin; sana may positive effect din toward society.”
Profession and advocacy
A constant learner, Jerielle divides her time between teaching and studying as she pursues a master’s degree in Mathematics from the same university. Now in her second year of teaching, the 21-year-old instructor has turned her chosen profession into her own advocacy.
Teaching, Jerielle said, has taught her empathy. She capitalizes on the paradox that her age presents: being a young educator may not readily earn her the deference she deserves, but it does provide her with a compassionate perspective of her equally young students.
The ongoing pandemic, for example, has made her cognizant of the importance of mental health for her young students especially in this time of enforced isolation. She said her approach involves withholding judgment and reaching out to a straying student first because often, all it takes is one message of concern for a student to open up and find equilibrium again.
“Hindi nakakababa sa iyo as a teacher na mag-reach out, mangumusta every now and then. Kasi hindi natin alam, baka iyon lang ang kailangan nila—isang kumusta lang, isang push lang, para mas mag-pursigi sila. It’s a little effort,” she said.
For now, Jerielle has turned her teaching position into her practical sphere of influence, positively impacting not only her students but her co-teachers as well. She recently undertook a “pandemic project” with her young peers, producing a series of instructional videos to help fellow Math teachers navigate UP’s UVLe, or University Virtual Learning Environment, a management system for the university’s online learning spaces.
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