“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
Nelson Mandela couldn’t have put it any better when he shared this powerful quote almost three decades ago. Fast forward to the present, his words are still being used as a springboard of many educators and organizations who dream of a society that provides equal opportunities for everyone.?
The same motivation fuels the Gokongwei Brothers Foundation (GBF) Technical Training Center (TTC) and Iskolar ni Juan (INJ) programs. The TTC, which started in 1999, was built to be a training arm of the Universal Robina Corporation-Branded Consumer Foods Group (URC-BCFG) that trains scholars with the competence, skills, and character they need to be future employees of URC. Over the years, the Center has produced more than 300 graduates under full INJ scholarship.
All these Juan scholars have their own stories of success. Let us look at the narratives of five INJ scholars that display grit, excellence, and resilience towards achieving their dreams for themselves and their families.
One of the most notable students of the INJ Batch 14B is Lehnard Diaz, a 24-year-old native of Laguna who decided to apply for the scholarship with the hopes of learning new skills that can improve his access to job opportunities. “May trabaho po ako bago po ako mag-apply sa TTC, pero naisip kong pumasok sa Iskolar Ni Juan (INJ) para magkaroon ng mas magandang trabaho na makakatulong sa pamilya at kinabukasan ko,” he shared. Lehnard is just one among the many scholars under the program who decided to skip college and work at an early age in order to help provide for his family.
When asked about his best takeaways from being an INJ scholar, he shared that other than the technical skills, he was also able to learn values that strengthened his integrity and character. “Hindi po naging madali yung mga pinag-aaralan, pero marami po akong natutunan from our instructors na makakatulong sa buhay namin sa labas.”
The story is a little bit different for Vena Barachina, though it has the same inspiring undertones. Vena is a 27-year-old single mother who once worked as a third-party helper for URC before deciding to pursue a scholarship with INJ. She shared, “Hindi po madali maging isang single mother pero naging inspirasyon ko ang anak ko. Nakita ko na napakaganda ng oportunidad kapag naging regular employee ng URC kaya pinili kong maging scholar. Sa totoo lang po ay nahirapan akong mag-adjust noong una dahil kailangan kong mag-aral ulit, pero hindi ko po pinagsisihan ang desisyon ko.”
Just like Lehnard, being an INJ and TTC scholar taught her more than just additional skills. “Bago ako napunta dito, aaminin ko pong fixed ang mindset ko. Dito ko natutunan na magkaroon ng growth mindset dahil binigyan ako ng TTC ng paninidigan na kaya kong gawin ang mga bagay na akala ko hindi ko kaya dati.”
Lehnard and Vena are perfect examples of GBF-TTC’s mission to help scholars become well-rounded individuals who can keep up with the demands of the industry through their skills and values. As Vena puts it, “Dahil sa binigay na chance sa akin ng TTC, alam kong lahat ng pagsisikap ko ay may magandang kapalit. I found a better version of myself here in GBF-TTC.”
The same goes for John Ron Enrico, a 20-year-old former BS Physics student from Mandaue. While his goal to help his family was similar to Lehnarda nd Vena, he also shared that it was his innate curiosity and interest in learning new things that inspired him to apply to be an INJ scholar. “GBF opened an opportunity for me. Gusto ko po talaga ang mechanics and electronics dahil magagamit ko po ito kahit saan. I also wanted to try a different journey kaya po nag-decide akong mag-apply dito.”
In addition, he said that being a GBF scholar also helped improve his relationship with his family. Since he moved from Mandaue, he felt the support of his loved ones, especially his father who used to be distant from him. “One of my main goals is to sustain the needs of my family. I want to strive hard to provide for them. I am very thankful for GBF for giving me the academic opportunity and the window to improve other aspects of my life.”
Empowering the underprivileged through technical education has always been one of the cornerstones of the Iskolar ni Juan initiative. With that, the program is able to help scholars to achieve dreams they never thought were possible before. Renz and Aileen are two scholars who embody this.
Renz Manalo–who moved to Calamba, Laguna with the plan of finding better work opportunities–was inspired to apply for the scholarship after seeing the success of a relative who was also a scholar of INJ. “I wanted to give back to my parents–that has always been my dream. When I started with TTC, I started seeing possibilities that I never thought I would be able to explore before. The motivation that I got from my fellow scholars, the staff, and our instructors made me understand that I could do it. We could all do it.”
22-year-old Aileen Cabos shares a similar experience. “I actually didn’t have any plan of applying for the scholarship because I was worried about how I can support my family if I stop working in exchange for being a student. It was my superiors in URC who pushed me to go for it. They convinced me that if I upskill, I have better chances to help my loved ones.”
She continues, “During my stay, I’ve also experienced challenges in studying. Dumating po sa point na gusto ko nang mag-quit, pero one my of instructors told me, ‘Malayo na ang narating mo. Madami ka nang pinag-daanan, ngayon ka pa ba susuko?' Ngayon, after ng TTC recognition, mas pagbubutihan ko pa po para maka-graduate at maging isang ganap na URC employee.”
Lehnard, Vena, John Ron, Renz, and Aileen’s stories perfectly capture GBF’s goal to provide aspiring individuals the opportunities they need to create a better future for themselves and their families. Dreams and goals like the ones they have are powerful and GBF matches that with the promise of giving scholars like them the shot they need to make them a reality.