From grit to greatness: 300 SM scholars to graduate amidst the pandemic

From grit to greatness: 300 SM scholars to graduate amidst the pandemic

Rising beyond the challenges, SM scholar Harvey Diño finishes a Bachelor of Secondary Education major in Science with flying colors.

Tenacious and sedulous. These are words one utters when looking into the eyes of students who went through the dynamic educational landscape during the course of the pandemic.

When the world was caught off guard by COVID-19, students armed themselves without knowing what would come ahead. Nonetheless, they braved the sudden shift to online learning. After roughly three years of adjustments, they once more prepared for the resumption of face-to-face classes.

The same two words would also fit SM scholars Harvey Diño and Cryzel Inovero.

Unparalleled persistence

Diño was born in a low-income household, making the rapidly changing learning modes more difficult. During the early years of the pandemic, his family relied on his father, who was a security guard. But he didn’t let this obstacle stop him from fulfilling his dream of becoming an educator.

He managed to juggle lectures, laboratory activities, online exams, preparations for face-to-face and become a consistent Dean’s Lister, all while taking advantage of the part-time Christmas and summer jobs at SM—an opportunity extended to SM scholars.

While the weight is already heavy on the shoulders of the aspiring teacher from Butuan City, his father died of a heart attack in 2021—just a year before he could make him proud by handing over his diploma.

“My father ignored the symptoms—I think this is because he was more worried about our economic situation. We just learned about it when he was hospitalized back in December 2021. That became one of the darkest moments in my life, but I didn’t lose hope,” he said.

“After my father’s death, we struggled financially. But I used my passion for teaching to support my mother and sibling. I worked as a tutor to earn extra income and provide for my family's needs,” he added.

As a truly tenacious and sedulous student, he graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Secondary Education major in Science from Father Saturnino Urios University, where he is currently teaching while preparing for the Licensure Examination for Teachers (LET).

Through the various learning opportunities organized by SMFI, he developed good communication and leadership skills, team playing ability, and a strong work ethic. These are some strengths he maximized up to this point of his journey, and he aims to utilize them as he faces the real world.

“After graduating, many opportunities opened, but I still chose to teach. I believe that it’s my calling. Teaching allows you to mold future generations through the curriculum you set and the personal wisdom you impart, which will last a lifetime. It is one of the many ways I can give back to SM—to pass on their kindness, to pay it forward,” Diño said.

When asked why he wants to pay it forward, “When times were rough, I leaned on the help of others, of SM, on their scholarship, and their kindness. I believe that as a beneficiary of their scholarship, we are called to gratitude in the form of spreading social good. For me, life becomes complete when we can give others what we, ourselves, received in the past. When we pay it forward, we can send ripples of kindness throughout communities,” Diño said.

As he looked back on the most formidable time of his life, the 23-year-old scholar noted how SM Foundation Inc. (SMFI) helped influence his success, “SMFI taught us, scholars, to have grit or combine passion and perseverance in any endeavor we wish to pursue.”

“To my Mama, my Papa in heaven, my brother, family, friends, and most especially, my SM family, thank you for believing in me during my college journey. I could not have made this academic success without your help. I am so grateful to have you as my support system,” he said.

From grit to greatness: 300 SM scholars to graduate amidst the pandemic

With her SM scholarship as her inspiration, cum lauder graduate Cryzel Inovero makes it her own mission to help her family achieve their dreams.

Paying it forward

Sharing the journey of Diño is Cryzel Inovero, a student also hailing from Mindanao.

The limited internet bandwidth, and unfavorable study environment during the pandemic did not hinder her from graduating cum laude from Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan.

As her parents are still working despite their declining years, it has become one of her life missions to help them and her older sister send her other siblings to school.

“After I take the CPALE and become a full-fledged accountant, I will strive and save up. I aim to start my own business so I can sustain our family's needs and support my siblings,” she shared.

From grit to greatness: 300 SM scholars to graduate amidst the pandemic

Cum laude graduate Cryzel Inovero with her family (second from the left).

“Becoming an SM scholar has made me fully see that while helping one person might not change the world, it could change the world for one person. And now, helping my family achieve our collective dreams and helping my siblings achieve theirs has become my ultimate dream,” she added.

For Cryzel, her life experiences and learnings as an SM scholar shaped who she is today and will influence who she wants to become tomorrow.

From grit to greatness: 300 SM scholars to graduate amidst the pandemic

Cum laude graduate Cryzel Inovero with her family (Left).

“While I’m still young, I am thankful to have had these valuable life experiences. But I will surely carry with me as I go on: I must go beyond my comfort zone, seek resources and solutions, ask for help, and extend a helping hand. With all these, I am truly honored to have been part of SM's fulfillment of its mission of giving deserving students access to quality higher education to uplift the Filipino youth and their families,” she shared.

Rising to greatness

Cryzel and Harvey’s inspiring stories to greatness are just two of the many that will be shared during the SM Foundation’s Rise to Greatness, the presentation of the SM College Scholar Graduates, on October 22, 2:00 pm-4:00 pm, via Facebook live. Over 300 scholar-graduates of 2021-2022 will be honored for their persistence and determination amidst the pandemic.

From grit to greatness: 300 SM scholars to graduate amidst the pandemic

In this year’s roster of scholars, 146 are set to graduate with honors: 24 with academic distinction, six summa cum laude, 41 magna cum laude, and 75 cum laude.

Learn more about stories of scholar-graduates or SMFI’s education initiatives today. Visit or follow its social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube): @SMFoundationInc