Mechanical engineers John David Tanay and Ernan Balderrama, the first products of the EmPOWER scholarship program funded by First Gen employees, pay it forwardThis is another impact story on “doing good” or initiatives of the Lopez Group, years after the beneficiaries availed of the support extended to them. In this instance, the help came not from company funds or executives, but from the employees themselves.
Sometime in 2012, a plan was hatched by the CSR team of First Gen Corporation to hold a fundraising activity dubbed “Billionaires’ Night.”
The success of the event helped launch the Employee POWER (EmPOWER) scholarship program, which was initially intended to support only one scholar since the funds will come solely from the employees’ donations.
Billionaires’ Night raised P71,120.80 versus the target of P34,000, thereby inspiring the EmPOWER core team to support two scholars: Ernan Vincent Balderama and John David Tanay.
Since then, the EmPOWER team has conducted the fundraising activity every other year to raise scholarship funds. From two scholars, the employees now support five—two Grade 11 students in FIRST School, one graduating student (BS Business Administration at Polytechnic University of the Philippines Taguig) and two first year college students (mechanical engineering, also at PUP).
Says Janice Dugan of First Gen: “We want the employees to live the Lopez Values.”
As a result of the employees’ donations—which ranged from a few hundred to thousands of pesos, and with not a single centavo coming from management—the first two scholars are now gainfully employed and helping their families, making their benefactors, the First Gen employees, very proud.
Here are the stories of EmPOWER’s first two successful scholars.
Engineer John David Tanay
John David Tanay was one the scholars who qualified for the scholarship requirement prepared by the head of Academics at PUP Taguig for EmPOWER. Coming from a big family where the parents were not college degree holders, the course Tanay had chosen was mechanical engineering.
Tanay found it challenging since he needed to maintain a GWA of 2.00 per semester. This motivated him to do his best. The scholarship covered tuition fee, allowances and other financial needs of his course, which greatly lightened the burden of Tanay’s parents who were already in their senior years when he entered college.
He says: “The support of First Gen did not end even after I finished college. For five months, my boarding fees, allowances and other financial needs in Manila while I was preparing for my ME board examination were still shouldered by the employees.”
Tanay encourages others to be inspired by their parents, to be challenged by their circumstances, to keep doing their best and to study well. He adds: “The reality of your situation must not hinder you from focusing on your studies. And, for me, the employees of First Gen became God-sent answers to my prayers.”
Engineer Ernan Balderrama
Ernan Balderrama was the other scholar recommended by PUP Taguig to avail of the scholarship program provided by First Gen employees.
Balderrama was raised by his grandmother, which he said was the best thing that ever happened to him. His parents already had their own families.
He says: “My grandmother and I were always facing financial challenges when it came to my education, starting from elementary until college. But I was lucky in high school because I was chosen and became qualified to be in a science high school, which provided my monthly allowances; this helped me a lot. Then I was chosen to be a part of First Gen’s scholarship program.”
After Balderrama passed the board examination, he went job hunting. In January 2018, he found employment as a mechanical engineer, enabling him to travel all over the Philippines extensively.
Balderrama is presently the head of engineering at his company. As a proud product of the Employee POWER scholarship program, however, he wishes to become a First Gen employee in the future.
Balderrama advises others like him to keep in mind that being a scholar is a once-ina-lifetime opportunity to turn themselves from nobodies into somebodies and, in his case, to become an engineer.
“Always enhance your skills with focus and hard work. Do not waste the opportunity, treat it as your weapon to survive in this complex society. We may not have control over the circumstances and situations we grew up in, but the moment we enter school, we have all the power to do something to help us in the future to better our situation,” Balderrama says.
For Balderama and Tanay, their bright future is now assured, thanks to the Employee POWER scholarship program.
As for the employees who helped make it happen, they can only feel the satisfaction of seeing how they provided the seeds of hope and empowered two deserving students to have a shot at a better life, thereby practicing and living the Lopez Values of social justice and integrity. (Story/Photos by: Dulce Festin-Baybay)