SM Scholar alumna now a Mechanical Engineer despite odds

SM Scholar alumna now a Mechanical Engineer despite odds
SM scholar Irish Tañada visits her brother and parent’s grave after passing the Mechanical Engineering Board Examination

It’s been years since the pandemic hit and altered people’s lives forever. But for some, the lessons it taught are still vivid, as if everything took place just yesterday.

The same is true for SM scholar alumna Engr. Irish Tañada, who recently passed the Mechanical Engineering Board Examination. For her, 2020 and 2021, the years leading to the epitome of her academic journey, have left an indelible mark.

Opening opportunities

Irish belonged to a humble family. Her parents were dedicated to giving her and her five siblings a comfortable life despite the financial struggles. Well aware of their parent’s hard work, she and her siblings studied hard and became consistent academic achievers.

Irish graduated at the top of her class and was admitted to a special science class in high school.

“As a big family, we struggled financially, so my siblings and I strived to do well in school and had always been consistent achievers in return for the sacrifices our parents. We were able to sustain our academic performance over time as my siblings and I went on to higher education. I was able to finish my senior year with honors and was motivated to get a college scholarship so I could help lighten the financial burden on my parents,” Irish shared.

She applied for different college scholarships, but it was the SM College Scholarship Program that opened its doors to her.

“I was just entering college when I realized that my parents could not afford to send me to a university as my dad had just retired. Unfortunately, his deteriorating medical condition consumed the majority of his pension. With six kids in school, life was challenging because everyone's education and my dad's medical expenses were our priorities. They could not afford to send me to my dream university, so I applied for every potential scholarship,” she recalled.

“Out of the blue, I saw SM Foundation looking for new scholars since there were no incoming freshmen due to the newly implemented K12 program back then. SM Foundation opened its doors to me, and I became an SM Scholar,” she added.

SM Scholar alumna now a Mechanical Engineer despite odds

The Tañada family proudly celebrates Irish’s recent feat with a congratulatory tarpaulin.

Pillar of strength

Through the support of her family and her SM Scholarship, Irish finished Mechanical Engineering and was a cum laude graduate of Cebu Institute of Technology.

“The SM College Scholarship made it possible for me to become who I am today. SMFI made the school pressure more tolerable and lighter, since, instead of stressing about paying my student debt, I was able to focus more on my education. I felt proud of myself since I was succeeding in school and at the same time, made my family proud because of my achievements,” she said.

SM Scholar alumna now a Mechanical Engineer despite odds

SM scholar alumna and Mechanical Engineering Board Passer Irish Tañada

She then landed a job while reviewing for the board examination. At the time, it seemed Irish was starting to give the life she hoped for her family—a life of comfort where is able to contribute to their needs, especially the medicines of her father. However, the life of the Tañada household took a sharp detour during the pandemic—her brother died, and her parents followed soon after.

“My brother was a seminarian and he had dengue. We weren’t able to bring him to the hospital as protocols were very strict back then. On July 28, 2021, he passed away. It was so hard for my parents so after a few days, my father also joined our creator due to kidney and diabetes complications. Losing them both was unbearable for my mother, kaya po nawala na rin siya the day after my father died,” Irish said.

The route in front of her seemed fuzzy in the midst of the detour. She made the decision to postpone her board exam and be the source of strength for her younger siblings.

“I almost gave up,” she openly shared, admitting that she wasn't sure how she was able to go through that period of her life.

She held onto the memories of her parents, and harnessed the power of education to get back up again.

“Good education is a foundation that prepares one to deal with the many challenges that life puts in front of us. It teaches us to organize, evaluate, and prioritize what is important to us, our family, and the world around us,” she said

“I thought, this is what they want for me, so I persevered and pursued my board examination. And now that I’m an engineer, I know they are proud of me even if they are no longer with us,” she added.

Fully aware of the power of education, Irish remains passionate about learning. She hopes to make her parents prouder and enrich the opportunities opened by the SM scholarship by getting additional engineering certifications and exploring engineering practices across the world.

Through the SM College Scholarship Program, deserving students with financial difficulties, like Irish, are able to pursue their chosen academic endeavors. The 18 SM College scholars who recently passed the Mechanical Engineering Board Examination are a testament to this.

With this feat, these scholar alumni are thousands of steps closer to breaking the cycle of poverty within their families, and are armed with skills to go beyond the limitations once set upon them.

SM group, through SM Foundation’s scholarship program, has been providing deserving and qualified students access to college education and technical-vocational studies since 1993. To date, SMFI has produced more than 8,000 college and tech-voc scholar-graduates nationwide.

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.