A scholar’s resilience forged by social good

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The pandemic has disrupted nearly every aspect of our lives, but its impact on education may be one of the most far-reaching consequences. According to a UNESCO report, a staggering 24 million learners worldwide, from preschoolers to university, were at risk of not returning to school.

College students faced the highest risk, with the steep costs of higher education proving to be a barrier for many. The report cited a range of socio-economic factors, including the need to earn an income, increased household responsibilities, and other financial strains that forced students to reconsider their academic paths.

While the pandemic threatened to derail the futures of millions of learners, SM Group’s social good arm, the SM Foundation continued believing in education’s capacity to uplift students from vulnerable communities, including Davao-based SM Scholar Cyra Jimenez.

PURSUING PASSIONS

Numbers have always brought joy to Cyra.

“To be an accountant has always been a dream of mine since I was still in my elementary years. It was driven by my passion for Mathematics because I enjoy solving problems and doing calculations. So, when it came time to choose a course, accounting was an easy decision because it’s something I’ve always been passionate about,” she shared.

While eager to pursue accountancy, her family was one of the millions affected by the pandemic. She was confronted with uncertainties that threatened to derail her academic aspirations.

“My father’s salary was only enough to meet our daily needs and my mother’s small business of selling food delicacies was affected by the pandemic. With the increasing prices due to the economic crisis and low sales, our small livelihood was not profitable then,” she recalled.

This realization made it even clearer to Cyra that her parents had to work doubly hard to support her in achieving her goals. Their sacrifices served as her drive to seek out scholarships to alleviate the financial burden on her parents’ shoulders. “I was determined to get that scholarship and graduate, no matter what,” she shared the mindset that kept her going.

That determination has continued to propel Cyra through her college life.

MAKING A BIG DIFFERENCE

The scholarship, she says, “has made a big difference” by providing relief for her parents while motivating her to work harder and stay focused on her goals. It has enabled her to find the ideal balance of fulfillment as a student.

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The SM Scholar has been a consistent Dean’s Lister at the University of Mindanao, while also finding time to enjoy extracurricular activities in school

Aside from being a consistent Dean’s Lister, she has the time to explore school activities, join organizations and events that allow her to hone her leadership and social skills.

With a few years left in college, Cyra looks back at her path, seeing it as one defined by personal growth. College taught her humbling lessons about independence, responsibility, and persevering past setbacks. “Being in college and having a scholarship to keep up, I’ve become much more responsible. I understand that my future depends on me, and I can’t rely on my parents all the time. Moving away from home for college also taught me that life can be tough, but I’ve also learned how to adapt and become stronger because of it,” she said.

Her college journey has been one of gratitude–for the belief others have shown in her potential and for the chance to forge a better reality through education.

GRATITUDE AND REPONSIBILITY

“Receiving the SM scholarship has taught me a sense of gratitude and responsibility. Knowing that someone believed in my potential enough to invest in my education has motivated me to strive for excellence in all aspects of my life. I am grateful for the opportunities the scholarship has given me. The SM College scholarship has enabled me to pursue my academic passions without the burden of financial constraints, allowing me to fully immerse myself in my studies and focus on developing valuable skills which I can also use for the future,” she added.

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Raising well-rounded students who are well-equipped to thrive beyond the four walls of the classroom, SM Foundation, SM Retail, and SM Supermalls hosted a general assembly for scholars, including Cyra (third from left)

For Cyra, her future is guided by dreams stemming from her humble roots. While she always keeps her feet grounded, Davaoeña keeps her head held high as she dreams of providing her family with financial security and access to opportunities that once seemed so far away.

“One that motivates me is our family situation and my goal of helping my parents in the future because I saw their struggles just to raise us and send us to school. I want to give back to them for all the sacrifices they have made for us. Aside from this, what also motivates me is the idea of succeeding in life. That no matter how bumpy it gets, there is a rainbow at the end of the road,” she capped.

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