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Of stewardship and paying it forward

Ramon Magsaysay High School Alumni Tree Project bears much good fruit
/ 05:10 AM January 01, 2018

Dave Dollete

This 2018 is the ninth year for a small but highly committed group of philanthropic alumni of Ramon Magsaysay High School (RMHS) to flesh out meaningful programs to help underprivileged students in their alma mater and groom them to be the next generation of nation-builders.

Among the potential future leaders is 16-year-old Dave Dollete, who used to struggle mightily just to get by in school.

This 10th grader, who dreams of working in the tourism industry someday, always lacked the money to pay for some school modules and projects, even if he’s studying at a public school, Ramon Magsaysay High School (RMHS), where tuition is free.

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He would always request his teacher to allow him to take up the modules, promising to pay his dues at a later date.

Dollete’s father, who works as a driver at a car rental firm, is the sole breadwinner in the family. His mother stays at home to take care of four kids.

Their life took a turn for the better when Dollete and another sibling became beneficiaries of Alumni Tree Project (ATP) RMHS Inc., a nonprofit organization formed by altruistic alumni of RMHS who decided to work together and help the underprivileged in their alma mater on España, Manila.

“Since I became a scholar, I’ve been able to complete payment for modules and projects,” said Dollete, who dreams of travelling to different places around the world.

Meanwhile, Hanna Isturis, 20, recently finished Marketing Management at Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM) and now works at Convergys as a call center staff. She was among the first few batches of scholars handpicked by ATP.

It was by chance that Isturis got into the ATP program.

One day, she saw a mass of students at the guidance counselor’s office. They were lining up to be interviewed as potential ATP beneficiaries.

Apart from getting financial assistance, what’s just as important for Isturis is meeting new people from other levels.

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“My circle of friends and my world got bigger,” she said.

We met Dollete and Isturis during a career orientation forum organized by ATP one Saturday morning on the RMHS campus.

Apart from giving financial support to students, ATP organizes field trips and seminars to help its scholars gain new skills, insights or inspiration to be productive members of society someday.

Isturis, who belonged to the special section, now helps the ATP look after the new batches of scholars.

“They don’t require us to give financially but the plan is—we’ll be the next batch (of ATP pillars),” she said.

Paying it forward

“The principle is: We ask them (scholars) to sign a covenant to pay it forward, help us volunteer in terms of service. And eventually, when they have a stable job, contribute no matter how small an amount—instead of spending P100 in Starbucks, for instance—to help sustain the program,” said Jaime Ysmael, ATP Foundation president.

ATP is Ysmael’s advocacy outside his main profession as CEO of property developer Ortigas Holdings.

The son of an elementary school teacher and an

entrepreneur who ran a business that produced window decorations, Ysmael came from humble beginnings. He promised himself early on that he would make a difference and uplift the economic stature of his family.

But it’s not just his own family that Ysmael and fellow RMHS alumni are now helping to uplift. They believe in stewardship and investing in the next generation as their way of sowing back what they have successfully reaped in their personal and professional lives.

ATP started as a project spearheaded by a small group of RMHS graduates and was adopted as a program by the RMHS Alumni Association in 2009.

To ensure continuity and good governance, the

nonstock organization Alumni Tree Project–RMHS Manila Inc. was incorporated in 2010.

“It started just an idea to honor our alumni. It was the idea of our classmate (RMHS Class of 1976), Dr. Cesar Agtarap, who’s based in Kentucky,” Ysmael said.

A number of other alumni such as Retired Air Force Gen. Oscar Rabena, Retired Philippine National Police Gen. Roberto “Boysie” Rosales, Finance Assistant Secretary Ma. Teresa Habitan and Celia Cruz are likewise active in the ATP.

The flagship program “Kinabukasan Mo, Sagot Ko” is a scholarship program that provides financial assistance to qualified high school students in the form of an allowance of P2,500 at the start of the school year to defray the cost of the uniform and school supplies, and a monthly stipend of P500 per high school scholar, for a total of P7,500 per year. The program was recently expanded to include scholars entering college who will be entitled to receive a similar monthly stipend of P1,000 per scholar per month, or a total of P10,000 per year.

The program is open to all RMHS students who need financial assistance.

Potential scholars will also have to exhibit leadership qualities and civic consciousness, and excel in both academic and extra-curricular activities, and maintain a grade point average of at least 85 percent.

“Initially, we supported only high school students but we thought, it would be a big waste if they couldn’t go to college,” Ysmael said. “We want to see them graduate and get employed so we decided to continue our support to our scholars until they go to college. We can’t provide tuition but we raised our stipend.”

The organization has also entered into strategic partnerships with corporate and school benefactors who provide tuition assistance to scholars who have been admitted to private colleges and universities.

Capacity-building

“At first, we gave only a stipend, but we saw the need to supplement this with training,” Ysmael said.

“We came from public school and when we sought employment, we saw the difference between a public school and private school graduate. First of all, they (public school graduates) don’t know how to talk. They don’t know how to sell themselves. They’re shy. We also saw the need to help them in the areas of financial literacy and career formation,” he added.

Aside from receiving financial assistance, the scholars also undergo one-on-one counseling sessions with identified mentors from the school and from the ATP officers and members.

Career talks, personality development programs, communication skills workshops, financial management, good parenting and other socio-civic events are also arranged to ensure their holistic development and foster social, scientific and environmental awareness.

Scholars also do their part in sharing their blessings and talent through the “Big Brother, Big Sister” tutoring program where the older students help the younger ones, both within and outside the program, with their assignments and test reviewers.

The progress of the scholars and their development requirements are periodically monitored by the guidance counselor who serves as the ATP’s primary day-to-day contact with the scholars.

From an initial batch of eight students in 2010, the program has expanded significantly.

There are now six scholars who graduated from college, including a visually-impaired girl, Maricor Book, who now holds a Bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education with specialization in Physical Education. She is now a special class teacher.

ATP’s goal is to raise enough funds to create an endowment fund whose annual earnings could sustain its activities, all meant to support scholars who excel in their studies and extra-curricular activities, and who will inspire the next set of scholars.

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TAGS: Ramon Magsaysay High School (RMHS), Tree Project
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