BrandedUp in partnership with The SM Store
A flower farmer’s daughter from Cebu, now a Certified Public Accountant. A struggling college student, now a multi-awarded Store Supervisor. A boy raised by a solo parent from Cagayan de Oro, now a Registered Electrical Engineer and Master Electrician. A working student, now a Corporate Trainer. Jo, Chad, Del, and Di are just among the more than 8,000 college scholars of the SM Foundation.
This Super Month, SM is celebrating the legacy of its founder Tatang Henry Sy Sr. who believes in the value of education in reaching one’s dreams. These SM Foundation scholars share their AweSM Stories of Giving Back as they come home to the SM Store to build their dreams.
Jo, a high school valedictorian from a mountain barangay in Cebu, and her parents set their sights on getting a college scholarship from SM Foundation. They learned first-hand from a high school alumnus that SM Foundation provides full tuition fees, monthly allowance, miscellaneous, and other incentives. Jo and her family wanted to ensure that she would get the support needed to succeed in her studies. Jo’s family depended on flower farming for a livelihood, which faced many challenges, they hoped for a much more stable source of income.
Jo chose to take up B.S. Accountancy, a five-year course, at the University of San Carlos (USC). “Tuition is quite steep at USC that is why I am so thankful that the SM Foundation scholarship covered 100 percent of tuition plus monthly allowances,” said Jo. “My parents and I never had to worry about the tuition fees. We felt secure, and I was able to focus on my studies,” she added.
With her focus, determination, and the proper support, Jo graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2014 and passed the board exams in the same year. She was immediately accepted as an Audit Associate in an established accounting firm. In 2016, Jo was promoted to Senior Associate. After two years with the firm, Jo started looking for an opportunity to work for a stable company, a dream she shared with her family. “I saw an opening for an Accounting Officer position in SM Store Cebu, and I immediately applied,” she said. Soon enough, she landed the job and rose to the position of Asst. Accounting Manager and was recently promoted to Senior Accounting Manager.
Jo says she sees the principle of “people helping people” come to life in SM. “Na-appreciate ko na ang SM ay tumutulong sa mga taong kagaya ko. I was an SM Foundation scholar and now I am still with SM as Senior Accounting Manager.”
Before joining SM, Chad struggled to keep up with the demands of being a college student and a breadwinner. He eventually took a leave of absence from school to focus on supporting his family. He had hoped that one day, he would earn enough to pursue his college degree. In 2010, he started working as a store clerk in SM Store Lucena. It seemed that Chad found his passion because, a few months into his role, he was already assisting VIP and VVIP customers who were very happy with his brand of service. SM Store recognized his efforts and soon became SM Lucena’s branch winner and representative to compete at the national level of the SM Store Customer Service Rewards Program (CSRP).
“I was so excited to represent Lucena. They sent me to Manila to meet all of the SM Store customer service winners across the country. I felt humbled meeting other champions who have been with SM for ten years and 20 years. I told myself sino ba naman ako to compete with all these experts,” said Chad.
Chad became the first national champion of the SM Store CSRP. His prizes included a car, medical support for a family member, a trip to Hong Kong Disneyland, and a college scholarship.
“In one night, all of my wishes came true. I needed medical insurance for my mother at that time. There was another prize that I truly valued, the college scholarship. I felt na special ako sa SM kasi binigyan nila ako ng chance na makapag-aral,” said Chad.
With a college scholarship from SM Foundation, Chad graduated from Manuel S. Enverga University Foundation with a degree in Information Technology. “SM changed my life to the fullest,” he said. “Naabot ko yung bagay na hindi makukuha sa akin, ang makapag-aral. I will value all of my experiences with SM until the end of my journey.”
The SM Store Downtown Premier’s Resident Engineer hailed from Barangay Carmen in Cagayan De Oro. Del vividly recalled the day their school announced the opening of the SM Scholarship Program. Del and his 30 classmates skipped their afternoon classes and headed to SM to apply. From the 30 applicants from his school, seven students were selected for the SM Foundation Scholarship Program. Del was one of the scholars.
Raised by a single parent with three siblings, life was difficult. Del felt the hardship and the resilience of her mother and to get a college scholarship would mean a lot to his family. “Kung makakuha ako ng college scholarship, isa siyang malaking tulong sa nanay ko. Siya lang ang nagpapalaki sa amin,” said Del.
At the time of a surprise visit from the SM Foundation, Del and his family were not at home to receive the good news of his acceptance. Their neighbor informed them as soon as they arrived home. “Ang saya ko at ng nanay ko nung araw na yun. Another problem solved,” said Del.
In 2016 Del graduated with BS in Electrical Engineering degree from Xavier University, Ateneo De Cagayan. It took him six years to finish the five-year course. Around his third year in college, he struggled with his studies. He feared he would forfeit his scholarship but was surprised to still receive a certificate of enrollment. For Del, this was proof that SM cared about its scholars.
After graduation, Del passed the board exams in September 2016. In March 2017, he was hired as the Resident Engineer of SM Store CDO Downtown Premier. Five years hence, he is still with the company. “Full-blast talaga yung tulong ng SM, they helped me with my scholarship kahit nag-struggle ako noon sa pag-aaral. Pagka-graduate ko they hired me. This is my first job at hanggang ngayon andito pa ako,” he said.
As a high school scholar from the Immaculate Conception Academy in San Juan City, Di was selected to receive a college scholarship from SM Foundation. Her high school alma mater and SM Foundation partnered to provide continuing education to bright young students. Even with a prospect of a college scholarship, Di was worried about the miscellaneous expenses and other costs of pursuing a college degree.
“Luckily, I was one of the students selected, so I submitted the requirements to SM Foundation; I asked myself paano ako magtutuloy sa university? We did not have the means,” shared Di. Weighing her options, Di accepted the college scholarship offered by SM Foundation and entered Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM), a state university. With PLM’s free tuition fee and financial support from SM Foundation, she graduated with a B.S. degree in Education, major in English in 2015.
Di shared that without the financial aid from the SM Foundation “hindi talaga kakayanin na mag tuloy ako sa pag-aaral. Ako rin ang eldest, and I really wanted to help my family especially my younger sister.” Di took part time jobs and juggled her role as a college scholar and a bread winner.
Naturally shy, Di shared that she developed self-confidence from the annual gatherings and enrichment programs offered by SM Foundation. “During the time that I was a scholar, I met SM scholars from all over the country every year. At first, I didn’t know what to do in big crowds and gatherings. With these exposures, over time, I developed self-confidence. “
Armed with confidence and a college degree, Di is now a Compliance Audit Trainer for the Business Center Operations of the SM Store. “For me, it is like coming home. SM provided me an opportunity to pursue my studies. Now I am back, working at SM. Once again, SM is providing my family and me a sense of security,” said Di.
SM Foundation Inc., through its scholarship program, has been providing deserving and qualified students with access to college education and technical-vocational studies since 1993. To date, SM Foundation has produced more than 8,000 scholar-graduates.
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Editor’s Note: This article was provided by The SM Store.