I BELIEVE that the goals of education are to produce dreamers who dream of great things, and to empower them to chase those dreams meaningfully.
Roughly half a decade ago, one student of mine began doing just that. With a deep interest in entrepreneurship, technology and design, he joined local and national competitions, created personal projects, founded a service organization, led major school-based organizations, and even went on to win global competitions. He was eventually admitted into one of the top universities in the United States on a full scholarship, and today continues to shine, spearheading projects with deep social relevance. I am immensely proud of and happy for him.
These were all just dreams back when he was in second year high school – now, they are so much more.
Yet, life is not equal for all dreamers: there are dreamers who find themselves tied down by harsh realities. Another student of mine suddenly found himself in the middle of financial difficulties, and worried that these spelled the end of the road for his dreams. However, after mustering the courage to face his quandary head-on, and spurred on by his teachers, he applied for and was awarded one of the school’s many grants. Today, I see him proving himself in every way possible, to show all of us that he deserves the opportunity he was given.
Teachers, especially, share in the dreams of our students and strive to help them realize these, however difficult or seemingly impossible. The Man from La Mancha, based on Cervantes’s Don Quixote, puts this poetically: that no matter how hopeless, no matter how far, we march on!
The founders of Xavier School saw the value of this as early as a few years after the school was established. Much like those offered by Harvard, MIT, and Yale, need-blind admissions are offered through the Xavier School Education and Trust Fund (XSETF). The XSETF was established on the principle that “no (student) who is otherwise qualified shall be deprived of a Xavier education solely for financial reasons.” In fact, the Xavier School Nuvali campus has a target of having 25 percent of its students as grant-in-aid scholars.
There are similar programs offered by other institutions in the Philippines. Edukasyon.ph, founded by Henry Motte-Muñoz (Harvard Business School ‘13), provides a comprehensive database of scholarships and a fantastic, streamlined process for those wishing to apply to schools and scholarships online. For those who dream to study overseas, Michi Ferreol (Harvard College ‘15), Christopher Dee (Harvard Medical School ‘20) and other US undergraduate students at that time founded the College Admissions Mentors for Peers (CAMP) Philippines. Each year, they organize and hold study-abroad conferences and provide mentoring for willing high school students.
It is important to note that, much like how Horace Mann revolutionized public education, these initiatives, projects and opportunities are in no way exclusive; on the contrary, they break the exclusivity barriers hindering dreams.
Dreams do not only live in the mind – they are driven by experiences.
Social Cognitive Learning Theory, developed by Albert Bandura, helps us connect and understand the relationship between a student’s past experiences, his or her expectations for the future, and the choices he or she makes every day. These then affect outcome expectations, depending on the actions of the students.
The 18th-century philosopher David Hume also argued that imagination is largely based on experience. I am still in awe of the extent to which students’ output reflects their imagination and dreams. Some students even bring to mind the great Da Vinci, both in their works and aspirations.
As teachers, we try to provide students with formative experiences, and push them to become great dreamers in whatever area they choose. We support their dreams in every way possible, making sure they do not fizzle out, even when the night changes.
Upon entering the Xavier Angelo King Multi-Purpose Center, one is greeted by a statue of the Child Jesus standing beside and looking up to St. Joseph, his foster father, looking back on him with much love and care. Jesus was also a great dreamer, and with much support from his earthly family, he chased those dreams.
The students mentioned in this article used to just daydream about where they wanted to be and what they wanted to achieve. With education, they became dreamers.
Perhaps at the end of the day, all our students really need is, borrowing from Echosmith’s song Bright, to “think that the universe is on [their]side,” and to know that their teachers are always there for them. No matter what.
Martin Gomez consults for various institutions and moderates XS Next Lab, Xavier School’s innovation lab. He currently studies at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.