From SM scholar to a beacon of hope


Aspiring young Filipinos from low-income households hold dreams of their own. While they lack resources, many of them have treasures no one can take: a steadfast grit to provide a comfortable life for their family. They dedicate their skills and abilities to pursue every possibility. One young SM scholar from graduating batch 2022, Jessel Pineda, represents just this—a new generation of Filipinos who aim to cease the perpetuating intergenerational cycle of poverty.

A fight to build a new life

For 20 years, Jessel’s family made a living out of a small barbeque business. Her parents would load their goods onto a bicycle and peddle on the streets where most customers are. But their bicycle would sometimes be impounded by enforcers, forcing them to use the majority of their profit to reclaim the vehicle.

The pursuit of a stable source of income is just one of the many challenges of the Pinedas. The most painful for Jessel, however, was when their home was demolished – not once but twice. “Magka-college po ako noong na-demolish ang bahay namin. Noong panahon na ‘yon, pumasok sa isip ko na baka hindi na ako makapag-aral dahil sobrang hirap at magastos magpatuloy sa kolehiyo.”

Knowing the power of education, the persistent student took a shot at the SM college scholarship examination to give her family a better life. Using her SM scholarship and life experiences as sources of strength, she capped her academic journey as a summa cumlaude and finished a Bachelor of Secondary Education as the Batch Valedictorian of the National University - Manila.

But Jessel’s journey to greatness doesn’t end here. Beyond putting a roof above their heads, she aims to pursue a law degree to help give justice to those who will walk in her shoes. “Kapag naging ganap po akong abogado, magi-give back po ako sa mga kagaya kong nangangailangan. Ipagtatanggol ko po ang mga tulad namin na basta-basta na lang pinaalis sa tirahan—dahil mayroon din po kaming mga karapatan kahit na informal settlers po kami,” she said.

Jessel is one of the over 300 SM scholar graduates of 2022. This batch includes 146 with honors–24 with academic distinction, six summa cum laude, 40 magna cum laude, and 76 cum laude graduates. SMFI’s Scholarship program has provided deserving and qualified students with access to college education and technical-vocational studies since 1993. To date, SMFI has produced more than 8,000 scholar-graduates.

The scholarship was anchored on the belief of SM Foundation founder Henry Sy Sr. that education is the greatest equalizer and that if he could help send one child
to school, that child could then help his or her siblings finish schooling–and together, they can help uplift their family out of poverty.