The Audacity to Dream: Reflecting on the ISM Scholarship Program

Written by: David 

Edited by: Chris

Visual by: Summer

The ISM Filipino Scholarship is an annual need-based scholarship grant given to a maximum of 5 students to attend ISM from Grade 8 to 12. Since the Filipino Scholarship Program started in 1961, it has changed the lives of over 150 students and their families. A former scholar, Aldrin Aujero, said that “[the scholarship] enabled me to explore new horizons that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to. (International School Manila)”

The scholars are all very unique and different people. Values, life experiences, and worldview differ among the scholars in every batch. Encapsulating the “scholar human condition” would then be inherently faulty, as there truly is no “one size fits all” profile.

In an attempt to gain the most accurate depiction of scholars, Bamboo Telegraph held a group discussion with them to comment on the experience and perceptions of scholars at ISM. 

“The scholarship gives high-achieving low-income students access to resources and opportunities,” answered an alumnus when asked to describe the scholar experience in one sentence. Another scholar said that it’s “made up of a tight-knit community of ‘kuyas & ates’ that guide each other.” There’s consensus that it’s a very fulfilling experience, but one noted that there is some insecurity that comes from “[their] achievements in [their] classmates’ eyes being partially based on teachers treating [them] differently.”

A current ISM senior said that “scholars are initially perceived as smart, hence the follow up ‘oh so you must be smart then’ once they learn that we’re scholars.” A junior added, “In reality, we’re all ordinary kids from humble origins that dream and work hard to get to where we want to be.”

However, “most are unaware of what the scholarship entails or how we’re chosen.” While not a major difficulty, it does lead to some hostility from the community. One alumnus recounted an instance where parents were complaining that the scholarship program makes tuition more expensive. “Clarity on how the scholarship is funded would go a long way to clear up confusion,” the alumnus later remarked.

The difference between scholars and the rest of the ISM community often gives a culture shock, especially to new scholars. “It’s immediately noticeable,” said an 8th grader. “The school and social culture were entirely different compared to the schools I’ve studied at in the past.” A freshman mentioned that “in local schools you don’t go to counselors for help. You only go to them when you’re in trouble.”

Moving forward, a junior suggested that the news of the scholarship program should be spread across the country. “There are so many talented kids in the provinces who just need an opportunity.” Given the support and assistance from ISM, the scholarship program is guaranteed to improve the lives of their recipients.

Ms. Vicky Herrera, whom the 5th scholarship has been dedicated to, said that the scholars have “raised the bar at ISM – not just in the classroom but in extra-curricular activities as well! The Scholars have played a huge role in making our School the success it is today.” (International School Manila).

Works Cited

“SCHOLARSHIPS AT ISM.” International School Manila, http://www.ismanila.org/our-community/scholarships-at-ism. “THE VICKY SYCIP HERRERA SCHOLARSHIP FOUNDATION.” International School Manila, http://www.ismanila.org/our-community/vsh-scholarship.