An eager dreamer dares to explore new horizons

 An eager dreamer dares to explore new horizons

For some, dreaming is a mere act of visualizing one’s hopes in life. But for many young Filipinos who have lived in poverty, it’s more than a just vision. 

For aspiring youth, daring to dream is a leap of faith. When they see a flicker of hope and open doors, they take action and courageously pursue opportunities that will allow them to break the constraints of their present lives to forge a better future, not just for themselves but for the people around them.

And to them, education does just that. With access to quality higher education, they are exposed to realms of possibilities, equipped with knowledge and skills, and empowered to strive towards their families’ stability. SM Foundation holds the same belief, prompting the Foundation to welcome its first batch of scholars three decades ago. Today, thousands have been given the chance to go beyond possibilities—one is Junie Anne Mariano.

Life before college

Junie’s family is one of the many hit hard by the pandemic. As fish vendors in Cauayan, Isabela, it was already difficult for her parents to bring home enough for a family of six. It became even tougher when their humble source of living closed down due to COVID-19.

“Mahirap po,” she recalled their life before college. “Minsan, bagoong lang ang ulam pero tuloy pa rin. Malayo rin po sa bahay ang school ko noon, at minsan, walang trabaho ang mga magulang ko. Since we lacked finances, there were times I couldn’t go to school. There were also instances when my parents would exhaust all that we have to send me to school since I was the eldest.”

An eager dreamer dares to explore new horizons An eager dreamer dares to explore new horizons

Junie’s parents pursued farming after losing their jobs as fish vendors.

But Junie has always dreamt of something better for her family, a life where her sibling could go to school and where the family could enjoy a decent meal. She somehow knew that equipping herself with skills through education would lift them out of the life they had always known. 

So, even if they had nothing, she would always find ways to continue her education. In high school, she would walk several kilometers to attend her classes. Daring to go the extra mile, she looked for scholarship programs to attain a college degree. 

The impact of the SM scholarship

As a person who acts on her dreams, Junie applied for the SM College Scholarship Program and got in. Believing in the power of education, she took up Secondary Education at a university in Cauayan City, Isabela. But for her, it was just the beginning of a journey that would change the course of her life. 

An eager dreamer dares to explore new horizons An eager dreamer dares to explore new horizons

(left) Junie finishes Secondary Education through her SM Scholarship. (right) The proud parents attend Junie’s graduation.

“Hindi lang ako academically na-shape ng SM College Scholarship Program. At the back of my mind, I have set a standard for myself. It made me stronger as I conquered challenges. I made the initiative to study harder and smarter dahil sa panahon ngayon, hindi lang hard work ang kailangan; you need to be intelligent, and you need to be the initiator of the things you want to achieve,” she shared her mindset in college. 

Putting her dreams into action, she took the part-time job opportunities offered to SM scholars at The SM Store in SM City Cauayan. Beyond earning an allowance, the experience exposed her to the realm of business and honed her communication skills. She also shared the money she earned and her monthly allowance from SM Foundation to help support her siblings' education.

“I consider education as a ticket to a better future. If you have an education, you have the chance to land better opportunities. It’s like a gateway to various chances–chances that will lead you to achieve your desired life,” she said.

Junie showed the world the power education holds. Right after college and while reviewing for the licensure examination for teachers (LET), she got a job at a private school in their city. After this milestone, she realized that some of her visions were right before her eyes.

An eager dreamer dares to explore new horizons

Junie teaches English subject at private school in Cauayan City, pursuing her passion for education right after college

“Ngayong may trabaho na ako, nakakabili na ako ng mga ulam bago umuwi, and we get to feast on those simple meals. Kahit simpleng blessing pa lang ang naeexperience ng aking pamilya kagaya nito, naaappreciate na namin ‘yon,” she said as she looked backed.

Beyond this, she is now capable of supporting the education of her three other siblings, who are currently in third-year college, grade 11, and grade 8, respectively.

New horizons

In March 2023, Junie passed the March 2023 LET, reaching yet again one of her greatest aspirations. But for her, this only unleashes new horizons to explore, such as pursuing a master’s degree to broaden her skillset, become an effective educator, and set an example to fellow dreamers.

“I’m just starting to live the life I’ve dreamt before,” she said. “Ako ang bubuo ng pangarap para sa pamilya ko.That’s why hindi ako titigil sa kung ano na ang naabot ko ngayon. Gusto kong mag-improve pa para sa ganoon mas marami pa akong ma-achieve. Through these achievements, I can share the blessings that I have with others, most especially my family and students.”