CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- Third district Representative Aurelio Gonzales Jr. over the weekend distributed some P12 million worth of scholarships to indigent but deserving students in his district.

Gonzales said in an interview that the first of the series of distribution was accorded to some 1,500 students from different towns of the district as part of a P12 million scholarship program. Most of the students are in high school and college with a handful enrolled in vocational courses.

Updates on President Benigno Aquino III's presidency

Gonzales said the scholarship grants are not dole-outs as students are asked to do well in their studies and maintain satisfactory grades as much as possible.

"The current number of scholars has swelled in the past years. This is a testament that more students are in need of financial help in order to get good schooling. Currently, we are even appropriating some of our personal funds to keep these scholars in school," Gonzales said.

Gonzales said the "Iskolar ng Dong" program has grown from 1,200 scholars in 2007 to 7,000 in 2008 and to 18,000 in 2009 alone.

He said they are still determining the current number of scholars as his team is still processing late applicants.

The lawmaker also said he has put much emphasis on education, adding that coming from a poor family, he sees the value of education in uplifting the quality of life on an individual and his family.

"I believe that a student would be able to rise from poverty if he is able to finish schooling. This in turn is a ripple effect for the community. If the student lands a job he is able to help his family and help propel their standard of living," Gonzales said, stressing that helping students finish schooling is also in turn helping the family achieve stability.

Gonzales also urged the scholars to do well in their studies and not be distracted by "gimmicks" and vices. He said that success in one's studies entails personal discipline and keeping up with priorities.

"I am advising our scholars to set aside more time in their studies and to finish their schooling first and then help their families. There are lots of distractions in the road to personal success and our students should be ready to overcome them with the help of their families," Gonzales said. (Ian Ocampo Flora)