Monday, April 15, 2024

Pursuing education despite the odds: These SM scholar alumni are now steps closer to their dreams

In the Philippines, a significant number of students often face uncertain paths to higher education, especially those from low-income communities. Often, the pressing need to support their families leads them to consider skipping college altogether and entering the workforce straight out of high school.

At one point, this could have been the story of Prince Mangahas and Queenie Alfonso–SM scholar alumni from Pampanga, whose lives took a turn through their scholarship opportunity.

Queenie Alfonso (left) and Prince Mangahas (right) join the SM Scholars’ general assembly at SM City Clark.

Determined no matter the odds

Prince's family background painted a picture of hardship. With his mother returning from overseas work and a struggling household, a college education seemed out of reach.

“I felt I needed to step up for the family and be the provider,” he said, contemplating enrolling in a short vocational course instead of going to college. “I was really determined to get an education no matter the odds because I was heartbroken by the fact that my siblings had to stop going to school. As a kuya, gusto mo sanang sabay sabay kayong aangat,” he shared.

A glimmer of hope emerged when Prince stumbled upon the SM Foundation scholarship program at Angeles University Foundation (AUF).

For him, the SM Scholarship was like a light at the end of the tunnel during the darkest time in his life. “There were times when I couldn't afford lunch and had to walk for hours just to attend classes,” he recalled. “Pero, hindi ako pinanghinaan ng loob kasi I am an SM Scholar. SM had it all for me. All I had to do was immerse myself in my studies. And for me, this meant overcoming all hardships. Struggle was real but I was not battling alone. SM was there,” he reflected, acknowledging the role the scholarship played in shaping his journey to becoming the accomplished educator he is today.

Prince is not only excelling as a teacher but also steadily building the life he always wanted for his own family.

Education wasn't just Teacher Prince’s ticket to a better life; it has now become his tool to empower his students and give his family the kind of life he long hoped to have.

Motivated by the influence of education on his life, he extends his influence beyond the classroom. Aside from his primary role as a math teacher, he also takes on leadership responsibilities as the Grade 9 coordinator and does private tutoring for added income.

During the pandemic, he leveraged his expertise as a DepEd TV Math Teacher-Broadcaster, creating video lessons for students across the country. At one point, he was the lone tutor-volunteer for Mathematics 6 of DepEd’s ETUlay online tutorial program.

Prince sees education as a force for social good. “Through education, one becomes aware of the prevailing issues,” he says. He envisions himself not just teaching math, but also using his story to inspire students to dream big and contribute to a better society. “Education plants a seed in someone's heart,” he adds, “nourish it until it bears the fruit of compassion.”

Following Tatang’s footsteps

Much like Teacher Prince is Kapampangan SM scholar Queenie. While her parents strived to provide the best for their family, their combined income from selling street food and working as a driver was not enough to send Queenie and her sibling to college.

Immediately after graduation, Queenie joined the Accounting Team of The SM Store in SM City Clark.

Determined, Queenie saw scholarships as her ticket to breaking the cycle of poverty. With the support of the SM scholarship, she made the most of every opportunity, even working part-time at The SM Store during breaks. This not only exposed her to the corporate world early on but also provided additional financial aid, enabling her to concentrate on her Management Accounting studies.

Upon graduation, she immediately began her career in Accounting with The SM Store. 

“Tatang once dreamed of fostering employment opportunities. Now, SM Supermalls and SM Stores are everywhere, transforming dreams into reality through job opportunities,” she shared. “Inspired by Tatang's vision, I, too, aspire to establish a business that generates jobs, with God's grace.” As Tatang said, “You have to have a dream big or small, then plan very well, work hard, and be very determined to achieve your goal.” (SM Foundation)