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Education makes a difference

Why, more than ever, corporate sponsorships are needed, and how they leave a permanent imprint in the lives of their beneficiaries

By Carla Higham

FOR A BRIGHTER FUTURE. Clarence Gamez together with EDC representatives. She graduated with top honors in high school, but was able to go to college because of a college scholarship.

FOR A BRIGHTER FUTURE. Clarence Gamez together with EDC representatives. She graduated with top honors in high school, but was able to go to college because of a college scholarship.

Clarence Gamez graduated with top honors from Ramon Torres Louisiana National High School in Bago City, Negros Occidental. To any parent, this would have signaled the beginning of greater things but for Clarence and her fellow top-ranked student, Lara Felissa, this was not the case.

Coming from a small town in Negros Occidental, the expectations of families there was not for their children to finish higher education but rather to find a job that will help put food on the table. Clarence recalls, “’Nung high school ako, ang pangarap ko lang ay maging kasambahay, kasi para sa ’min malaki na yung R3,000 at makakatulong na sa pamilya (When I was in high school, my dream was to be a household help, because the R3,000 monthly salary seemed like such a big amount that would go a long way in helping our family).” She goes on to share the mentality of most families surrounding hers, “Sasabihin nila sa magulang mo na ’wag na pagaralin’ yan kasi mag-aasawa din ’yan (They would tell your parents not to send you to school because it would just go to waste as they’d just get married anyway).”

In a town where the greatest source of income comes from rice and sugar cane fields, it was expected for high school graduates to immediately work in the fields or venture out into the city to become sales people or security guards instead of pursuing an education. Lisa notes, “Malayo lahat doon, pati colleges. Para sa pamilya namin, tama na ang makatapos ng high school. Hindi na kami pinapa-continue kaya ang career path doon sa amin ay magtrabaho na agad (Everything was far from our town, even the colleges. For our families, finishing high school was enough. They discouraged us from continuing our education because our career path was to find work immediately.)”

But the two refused to settle for the life that they were born into. Lisa was determined to finish an education in one of the country’s top universities, although she was game to finish wherever a scholarship was offered, “I really wanted to finish school. For me, as long as there was a scholarship, I’d be okay, although my heart was set on the University of the Philippines. I knew there was a gap—I didn’t know how to bridge it.”

Clarence’s goal also shifted toward the end of high school, “I never imagined I could go to UP because it wasn’t a reality for us. My parents didn’t even make enough money to feed all of us.”

The Defining Factor 

The two girls continued to persevere despite the many odds in order to achieve a life that was different from what they grew accustomed to. Their paths changed dramatically when they came across the mentorship program of the Energy Development Corporation (EDC), a global leader in geothermal energy and the country’s renewable energy production pioneer.

EDC’s unique program called CAREERS (College Admission and Readiness) helps prepare underprivileged but high-potential public high school graduates for college examinations not just in the University of the Philippines but also in other premiere education institutions and other top state universities and colleges nationwide.

The program works closely with recipients. Clarence recalls one particular incident, “It was the first day of enrolment at UP but I couldn’t go because my mother gave birth and I had to go with her. Our funds got depleted, too. They helped me with my mother’s hospital bills so I could still use the money to enroll.”

For Lisa, the impact of EDC is not just through monetary support but also character formation built through enrichment workshops and community services. The organization put emphasis on developing its beneficiaries not just academically but also holistically. Lisa says, “My confidence and character both grew.”

Aside from supplying them with the basics: a place to stay, assistance for basic needs such as stipend for food, books, and school supplies, the scholars are also closely monitored by EDC personnel and foster parents who take care of them while they are away from home.

Clarence and Lisa recall the activities that helped shape their personalities such as workshops, solidarity building events, and values formation seminars. Clarence says, “These are the things I would need to equip myself with for life after college.”

The Brighter Future Today

Today, the two have completed their degrees: Clarence with a degree in BS Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and Lisa with a degree in BS Management. For the two of them the initial plan is to land a job within a year from graduating.

Clarence says, “Any work will do, but my dream is to work as a research assistant in the department of our school.” Her four-year experience with aquatic wildlife has opened up her eyes to the many possibilities.

Lisa, on the other hand, wishes to pursue a job in the finance sector. Through her four years, she has fallen in love with numbers, analyzing them, and forecasting. This is a field she wishes to pursue in the long run. But for now, she is content to have any job that will help propel her forward.

It might be too early to say what becomes of the two ladies but one thing is for sure—it is definitely a far cry from where they once were and where everyone expected them to be.