SHE had neither pen nor paper.
Fifteen-year-old Gladis Morales sighed, taking a last look at the insides of her worn backpack before she zipped it shut. Classes for the day had just ended, and took with it her last piece of paper and her last drop of ink.
So Gladis got up and walked to the next barangay. In it was the only store where school supplies like pencils, notebooks and correction fluids, were available; it was where her schoolmates bought their
“I walked two kilometers to the next barangay and back whenever I needed school supplies,” Gladis, a local of Porac, Pampanga, said. “I could have taken a tricycle, but it would have costed P50. It was expensive.”
Now 20 years old, Gladis is on her fourth year of taking Accountancy in Far Eastern University. The values she had learned during her formative years carved themselves into her character, pushing her to excel and go beyond her limits.
A scholar since her freshman year, Gladis is active in her university, currently acting as the Vice President for Internal Affairs of the Junior Philippine Institute of Accountants FEU branch. She has also garnered numerous awards and recognitions for both her academics and her leadership skills. These include the Outstanding Tamaraw JPIAn, FEU’s Top 10 Outstanding Juniors, and Ayala Foundation’s Ayala Young Leaders.
Her intelligence and adaptability made it look like excelling came easily to her. The truth, however, was that FEU opened her eyes. “I never considered myself as poor.
My dad is a farmer, my mom a sari-sari storeowner. I have two brothers and two sisters. We’re a happy family, but learning about economics in FEU showed me that we are below the poverty line,” Gladis said.
She continued, “I tutored kids when I was in high school as a means of earning. These kids would also walk to the next barangay to buy school supplies. It was a problem of the community that needed to be addressed.”
Thus Gladis bought school supplies from Divisoria and brought them to her hometown. After talking with the community leaders, she was able to establish the barangay’s first school supply store. The response was positive: students, teachers, and parents recognized it as the to-go store for their pen-and-paper needs.
The venture had been her first experience in handling a structured business, and it came with its set of challenges. “Applying the theories and principles I learned in college was more difficult than I thought it would be,” Gladis confessed. “When you have an enterprise, whatever decision you make will have a big effect [on people]. . . you have to go beyond the pre-determined solutions given in books.”
For fellow scholars
But when everything seemed to better, Gladis went through another painful moment in her life. Her benefactors became inconsistent in handing her financial aid.
She recounted, “I talked it over with my friends back in Porac, who were also scholars. That was when we found out that many types of scholarships aren’t sustainable.” Wanting to address this dilemma, Gladis and her fellow scholars founded the Scholars in Action last August 2014.
Scholars in Action, or SiA, disseminates scholarship opportunities to those who need it and gives sustainable scholarship to its scholars through partnerships with corporations, government offices, and non-profit organizations.
“There was a lack of information back in my barangay,” the student leader explained. “SiA makes students aware of the scholarships available to them, and the colleges and universities that they could go to. We also help students get scholarships where they can budget their expenditures and savings, and look for other benefactors if the terms of the sponsorship will allow it.”
There is also A Scholar’s Story, the enterprise of SiA. A Scholar’s Story sells school supplies, which have the stories of the organization’s scholars in them. Buyers also have the option of writing a message to the student featured in the merchandise they buy. Half of the proceeds go to the members’ allowances.
There are currently 13 scholars under SiA.
Pen and Paper
It was Gladis’ education that made her aware of what needed to be done. “FEU gave me the knowledge and resources that I needed to act for sustainable education,” she explained.
The pain she has felt from a lack of a school supply store has sprung into a well that assists and educates scholars. And it is already creating a ripple bigger than it had imagined, already reaching out to students on a national level. The pain has translated into a purpose.
“You must have a ‘Why?’ that is bigger than yourself,” Gladis said. “You can’t do things for yourself alone, or else you will lose track. You can’t have a ‘Why?’ that would benefit only yourself.”
Gladis then smiles widely and thinks of her hometown, of its altruistic teachers and promising students. She thinks of the school supply store that will help Porac’s children attain a better education.
“I’ll name the store ‘Pen & Paper,” Gladis ended.