“TO ACCOMPLISH great things, you must not only act, dream and plan but believe in that dream.”
These encouraging words were from SM founder Henry “Tatang” Sy, who in 1993, established the SM college scholarship program—a social good vehicle that intends to carry out his vision of providing quality education to youth in grassroots communities.
The late SM patriarch believed that if one child from an economically challenged family is sent to to college, that child would have more opportunities to have gainful employment and later on uplift the economic status of his family.
Each school year, the social good program attracts over 6,000 applicants. Admission to the scholarship program is based on criteria set by the SM Foundation: Grade 12 graduates from public and private schools in the areas covered (applicants from private schools must have a DepEd voucher and must be Grade 10 finishers from public high schools); with a General Weighted Average grade of at least 88 percent or its equivalent for Grade 12 (first semester) and total household income of at most P150,000 per year. The applicants undergo a written examination and an interview. The SM Education team conducts home visits to know the shortlisted applicants further.
Scholars are given the option to pursue their desired college courses specializing in computer science, information technology and engineering; accounting and allied business courses; and elementary and secondary education degree programs. Plus, they get to choose where they will enroll among the SM partner schools in Cebu: Cebu Institute of Technology University, Cebu Normal University, University of Cebu, University of San Carlos, University of San Jose Recoletos and University of the Philippines-Cebu. Currently, there are about 150 SM scholars and alumni from Cebu. Here are some of their stories:
Laborer’s son dreams big for his family
One of the current scholars in Cebu is 20-year-old Nathaniel Fabular of Hilongos, Southern Leyte, a sophomore pursuing Bachelor of Science in Accountancy at the University of San Carlos. Being accepted as an SM scholar serves as an inspiration for him in pursuing his dream for the future.
“When the SM foundation sent an email informing me that I was accepted as a scholar, I was really on cloud nine. I’m really grateful to Tatang and the SM Family for this opportunity. They shed some light in my path in order for me to achieve my dream,” Nathaniel said.
Two years from now, Fabular will be graduating and aims to pass the CPA board examination. He is also considering post-graduate studies in law. But, his priority once he graduates is to get a job so that he will be able to support his younger siblings in finishing their education.
“If I can get a chance, I want to work with the SM Group. I also want to give back to what the SM Foundation has given me. I will do that by continuing the legacy that Tatang has started—that is extending helping hands to the community,” he said.
Inculcating the importance of giving back
Giving back is one valuable lesson inculcated in the minds and hearts of SM scholars even before they graduate. Elrose Carope, 20, daughter of parents who are cooks, is a third year BS Accountancy student at the University of San Jose Recoletos. Asked what lessons she learned as a scholar, she replied that it was the importance of giving back to others. “Just like how SM Foundation gave us the gift of education which allowed us to fulfill our dreams and break free from the bonds of poverty. This act of extending a helping hand to financially challenged families had greatly changed and improved countless lives. I aspire to become a person who helps uplift the lives of other people and spread social good in the community.”
Becoming an entrepreneur and paying it forward
For SM scholar alumna Darmae Tan, being a scholar taught her to be grateful. “Not everyone is given the same opportunities in the world, and I am very grateful for each opportunity that comes my way. But it doesn’t stop there because with every opportunity, I have to make the most out of it so that it doesn’t only help me and my family, but also help as many people as possible. The greatest lesson I learned from being a scholar is paying the kindness forward—this applies to both my professional and family life.”
Tan entered the scholarship program in 2006 and took BS Computer Science at UP-Cebu. Currently, she heads two companies: MYT SoftDev Solutions and ErrandBoy.PH which she founded.
Inspired by SM’s “People helping People” philosophy, she is helping not just her family but the whole community as well. “I’m planning to grow both the software company and ErrandBoy.PH. The first employees I hired for ErrandBoy.PH were those displaced, mostly from the hospitality industry, because these were the first industries greatly affected by the pandemic. I want to promote this new kind of service provider even after the pandemic. This is exactly how the foundation helped me—they provided an opportunity for me, providing for my college education, enabling me to have time to develop myself. These helped me realized my future, and the ability to extend a helping hand to others specially to those who come from economically challenged families just like me.”
The SM Brand
SM scholar Jose Rey Tabuco Buenavista, 34, graduated from the University of Cebu. He is now married with three children. Looking back, he pointed out, “I was able to find a job immediately because I informed the job interviewer that I am a proud SM scholar.” The interviewer queried what he meant and he proudly replied, “I graduated as a scholar of SM, one of the largest conglomerates in the Philippines,” to which the interviewer said, "Oh, wow very nice! You are very welcome here! Can you start tomorrow?"
Applying the culture of an SM scholar has earned him the respect of his colleagues. From being a member of a project staff, he moved up to become a supervisor and eventually land a managerial position. To further his career and learning, he is pursuing his MBA at the Ateneo Graduate School of Business (AGSB).
Achieving her dream
After passing the CPA exams in 2014 where she ranked sixth, Jamaica Englis joined SGV & Co. in Cebu. She had job offers in Manila after job interviews during the presentation of graduates at MOA but decided to go back to Cebu to make it easier to give support to her family.
“I'm able to support my family by providing school allowances to my younger siblings, contributing for their school fees, paying for the electricity bills and other expenses of our household. Sometimes, during special occasions, I treat my family to lunch or dinner, take them to the beach or take them to SM to do their Christmas shopping. I can do all of these now because SM Foundation once believed in me and helped me achieve my dream of becoming a CPA. Now, the least that I can do is to pay it forward, starting with my family and the people close to me.”
Jamaica recently joined BDO and is eager to learn as much and as fast as she can. “I know it's easier said than done but I believe that with perseverance and determination, anything is possible. At the same time, I want to enjoy and appreciate life one day at a time, and ensure I spend life's precious moments with people who matter most,” she concluded.
The SM scholarship online application for School Year 2021-2022 is open until March 20, 2021. For more information about the program, one can visit www.sm-foundation.org and follow its social media accounts @SMFoundationInc (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube).
SM Foundation, through its scholarship program, has been providing deserving and qualified students with access to college education and technical-vocational studies since 1993. To date, the SMFI has supported almost 5,500 scholar-graduates nationwide. SPONSORED CONTENT
SM Scholars from Cebu
Jamaica Enlis with SM Foundation executive director Debbie Sy
Darmae Tan, founder of MYT SoftDev Solutions and ErrandBoy.PH together with her family
Cebu SM scholar alumnus and assistant mall manager Engr. Mark Paul Magallanes with SM Cebu officials Marissa Fernan, RJ Leduna, SMFI's Linda Atayde and Eleanor Lansang
SM Scholars during the presentation of graduates in 2018
SMFI house visit
SM Scholar Nathanel Fabular
SM Scholar Elrose Carope
SM Scholar Jose Rey Buenavista
March 15, 2021
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