The pricking early morning heat last Saturday was not enough to dampen the resolve of some 700 technical-vocational (tecvoc) scholars of the SM Foundation to attend the general assembly arranged for them by the Foundation at the Center Stage cinema of the Mall of Asia.
They came from all over the country and from the different participating schools in the 11-year old tecvoc program of SM Foundation; listened to the speeches of Jose Sio, chairman of SM Investment Corp and president of SM Foundation Inc. and Harley Sy, Executive Director of SMIC together with Debbie Pe-Sy, the Executive Director of SM Foundation.
Before the program, they formed a giant human logo of SM as they danced and sang to the official jingle of SM at the driveway area fronting MOA and the words thank you SM.
Four of the scholars gave tearful testimonies of how the SM Foundation scholarship have saved them from hopelessness because of poverty and other obstacles and how the scholarship has greatly improved them in terms of skills and moral values— a vital component of their tecvoc curriculum.
They were Faith Garcia of Nasugbu, Batangas taking up hotel restaurant resorts services; Anthonly Andales, also from Laguna taking up mechatronics from Dualtech, Leimahr de Leon of Sisters of Mary Boystown and a video testimony from Gaddie Accedillo from Don Bosco TVET Center in Makati.
A tecvoc graduate, Pamela Batham who took up hospitality course in Punlaan School, also shared inspiring words to the scholars about how she learned to develop patience and perseverance at improving herself in the work place—taking chores like cleaning the toilets (which her peers disdained) and doing odd jobs, which got recognized by her bosses and for which she got promoted to her current position at the SEDA Hotel as senior food and beverage associate in one year.
SMIC chairman Sio told the students that of the 105 million Filipinos, less than 5% is a tecvoc graduate. College students account for 5% of the population, and yet 80% of them drop out of college. But 95% of the 2 to 3 million tecvoc students graduate and 70% of them land jobs while most of the college students are hard up getting jobs.
“SM Foundation provided you the tools to take up tecvoc courses and improve your chances of employment. But in the end, how you make use of the tools will spell your success,” Sio said.
Sio said SM Foundation is now 35 years old and has produced 4,000 scholars who graduated from college, many of them with Latin honors or as dean’s listers.
He then imparted to them vital lessons he learned in life: a) trust (in yourself and in your abilities and make yourself trustworthy); b) have a vision of what you want to be 5 to 10 years from now; c) there is no substitute to hard work and perseverance; d) you must have focus and commitment; e) develop creative solutions (be maabilidad) and f) have an ambition—preferably large ones and be prepared to be bold enough to meet that ambition.
FORUM WITH HARLEY
Despite sore throat that morning, Harley Sy spoke before the scholars imparting to them the value of “saving up a big part of your first years of salaries for yourself to be able to pursue further studies or put up your own business and other initiatives at self-improvement and financial independence.”
“There’s nothing wrong with being selfish if you have higher goals for the future. But make sure not to spend needlessly,” he said citing that he himself does not buy fancy things and uses a “Nokia phone and Swatch (from the cheap ones to a slightly upgraded version) watch up to now.”
When he opened the floor for questions, the scholars initially hesitated because they were awed by his stature in life (being the son of the founder of SM conglomerate). But when the first two questions were asked, suddenly a long queue of students formed to have a chance to ask for counsel or his thoughts on life.
When the program finished, the students had selfies with Harley and Debbie, even as the movie they were treated to (Mission Impossible) was about to begin.