SM scholar alumna becomes agent of peacebuilding in conflict affected areas

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One of the distinct characteristics that SM scholars possess is that they always uphold excellence in their respective chosen fields.

Carissa Cruz, one of SM Foundation’s scholar alumni, shared during a kumustahan session how she continues to strive for excellence at work and in life in general.

Looking back, Carissa recalled how their family struggled to make ends meet as her father (a house painter) and mother (a seamstress) both have unstable sources of income.

“With my four brothers and myself, we were aware how difficult our finances were—to the point that we can’t even buy a door for our house. I started working at 10 years old as a babysitter during my Elementary School days and subsequently as a bookkeeper for my Aunt’s bakery to finance my own High School education. As I know that education will be the start of a better future, I applied for the SM Foundation Scholarship Program.”

Through the SM Group’s scholarship program, Cruz finished BS Accountancy as magna cum laude at Meycauayan College in Bulacan and became a certified accountant in 2014. 

Carissa with her parents and siblings

“I am the first professional in my family,” and quoting the man who supported her college education, the late Tatang Henry Sy, Sr, she added: “If you will it, it can happen. True enough I was able to finance the education of my two younger brothers—one now finished BS Marketing at Jose Rizal University while the other is currently taking up BS in Computer Engineering at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines.” 

Since 2014, Cruz has been working as an accountant, tax adviser, external auditor, financial controller, quality management reviewer and lead internal auditor for private companies. She has also volunteered as a Peace Advocate on the side to help give back to the country. 

Just recently, she was appointed Director IV under the International Cooperation and Partnership Department at theOffice of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process(OPAPP)—an Executive Office under the Office of the President—where she found greater purpose of serving her countrymen.

Part of her current role entails strategizing initiatives that that will help unleash social development in conflict-sensitive and war-torn areas in Mindanao such as Marawi and Zamboanga—which, she said, will in turn, bring long lasting peace.

Cruz is now finishing her Juris Doctor degree at De La Salle University-Bonifacio Global City to combine her skills in finance, legal and peace advocacy to become an effective agent of change.

Paying it forward, her goal is to instill a strong financial management system rooted in strong policy and guided by the legal framework that promotes transparency and accountability and eradicates corruption in the government.

To conclude, she gave a reminder to all aspiring SM scholars, “Please keep in mind that real success requires step after step and choice after choice; it demands education, the right amount of passion and commitment, persistence, grit, and patience. While intelligence is important, IQ is not the only thing separating successful students from the strugglers. Never cease to grow and stop learning. When you stumble, which surely you will, just continue to move forward. Because it will lead you to greater things in the future.” 

SM Foundation, through its Scholarship program, provides deserving and qualified students with access to college education and technical-vocational studies since 1993. To date, SMFI has supported almost 5,500 scholars nationwide. The online scholarship application for School Year 2021-2022 will open on January 1 and end on Feb. 28, 2021.

For more information about the SM College Scholarship program, visit and follow its social media accounts @SMFoundationInc (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube).



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