Over a thousand alumni of the SM Foundation scholarship program flocked to the SMX Convention Center last January 6 to reunite with SM patriarch Henry Sy, Sr., matriarch Felicidad T. Sy, eldest daughter Tessie Sy-Coson & youngest son Harley.
The alumni scholars gave back to SM Foundation their own scholarship program to increase further the 1,000/year that the Foundation sponsors.
After presenting “Tatang” and “Nanang” with a simple gift of gratitude, the five founders of the “Scholars for Scholars” movement—Loida Ongteco-de Vera, now Operations Manager of SM Hypermarket; Ellyson Bala, SAVP, IT Department, SM Prime Holdings; Novelyn Beboso-Denoso, Finance Analyst, San Miguel Foods, Inc.; Emylor Manit-Cadalzo, RS Department Manager, NKC Manufacturing Phils. Corp. and Junnair B. Manla, Network Engineer, NTT Singapore Pte. Ltd.— presented Debbie P. Sy, Executive Director of SM Foundation with a seed money of P100,000 that they raised amongst themselves vowing to increase this further in time for enrollment in July.
The five founders of the “Scholars for Scholars” movement of the more stable alumni of SM Foundation also distributed voluntary pledge forms during the program
Also present at the gathering were Jose Sio, president of SM Foundation, Linda Atayde, executive director for Education and Trustees of the Board, Dr. Lydia Echauz and Chito Macapagal.
SM Executives led by SMIC’s Paul Arcenas and Ronald Tumao also came to lend support to the activity.
Wearing blue jackets gifted them by the foundation as remembrance, the former scholars rendered song and dance numbers and heartwarming testimonials from Ericson Cabrera, 2010 graduate; Junnair Manla, 2014 graduate of NU now based in Singapore; Novelyn Beboso, 2005 graduate; and Ellyson Bala, FEU graduate of 1999. Their stories brought tears of joy in the eyes of listeners. An alumna, Gemma Gutierrez, composed an original thank you song, which she herself sang prodding her peers to sing along with her.
They came from all over the Philippines with many of them working in countries like the United States, Papua New Guinea, Australia, Singapore, and the Middle East. They just came to pay tribute to the founder of SM Foundation and to pledge to “pay forward” the generosity of the Sys to other less-fortunate but bright students (who were once like them).
But Harley Sy, asked the alumni not to oblige their peers, especially the fresh graduates, who are just in the process of etching their names and fortunes. “It’s not bad to be selfish for now because you have to earn for yourself first. But if you start having more than what you need then look at others around you and help them so, in the future, they can also help others,” Harley said.
Harley said more than raising funds, what is important for the alumni is to undertake a mentoring program for current scholars, many of whom get discouraged because of academic failures or personal hardships that make it difficult to maintain their grades
“You all know this. You have gone through these tough times yourselves so help the current scholars in whatever means you can—tutor them where they are weak and make them feel that they are not alone. SM Foundation is after all is also your home,” Harley said.
Many of those who attended the homecoming only learned about the reunion from social media, so expectedly the batches that came in big numbers were graduates from 2013 and up. Many of those in the early batches of the 25-year old scholarship program may have failed to make it because they could not be tracked down by the foundation. Because of this predicament, SM Investment Corporation (SMIC) designed a survey for the alumni to complete either online or in printed form to be able to update the database of the scholars and hopefully, bring in more alumni to join future homecomings.
At present, SM Foundation maintains over a thousand scholars a year with 2,000 more taking tech-voc courses. So far, 4000 scholars have graduated from the SM Foundation college education program from partner schools which started in 2002.