Leo Rivera ACI Scholar

I’m sure all of us have dreams. Whether it be a simple dream of a career/profession, a dream home, a dream car, or a complex one like a future for your family and for yourself, these are all important things to aim for. But for students like me, dreams start with our dream schools.

My name is Leo Albert N. Rivera, a 20 year old from the province of Pampanga, and a 4th year BS Economics student from the School of Economics in the University of the Philippines Diliman. Quite honestly, my main reason of coming to Manila was to pursue my studies.

Since when I was young, UP was my dream school. I always wanted to get to finish a degree in the premier State University in the country. But being a probinsyano at heart, coming to study here, was something I saw more as a sacrifice. I had to leave my family behind and the place I called home just to get myself to greener pastures. In addition to that, studying away from home meant more expenses for my needs. For four years now, I have been making a sacrifice. But looking back now, with a  year left before I finally graduate, I would tell you perhaps it’s more than just making that “sacrifice”.

For me coming here to the nation’s capital region is actually a joy. It enabled me to be exposed to realities away from home. I got to meet new people, learn new things, and experience what I thought I would never get to experience.  Through my education, I saw myself develop into a person who I think is more critical and aware of what transpires around me and a person more inclined to thrive under pressure and against criticisms and make it out of uncomfortable situations.

But my UP education is not just about the academic learning I get in the university. It includes the things outside the four corners of the classroom that make a student like me feel I have grown more as a person throughout my college years.

In UP, I became part of organizations that helped me recognize the bigger fight in society. I joined academic-political organizations which aim to raise consciousness about various social and political issues that we face every day. We do educational discussions, discussion groups, and other activities that try to reach out to various marginalized sectors in order to help them make informed decisions regarding the things that happen around them. We lobby bills for improved government policies and to make sure that social justice is achieved by all sectors of society. We act as watch dogs to various public institutions in order to avoid corruption and other issues that plague the entire system. I have developed a passion for these things we do which led me to become a dedicated member, an officer and eventually the president of the organization.

Aside from this, I was also able to serve in the student council of the School of Economics, where our primary mission was to address students concerns and needs, alongside our efforts to spearhead promoting to a larger scope and audience the study of economics as an able analytical tool.

Additionally, just like how a typical UP student is stereotyped, I also fund my roots of being an activist. Seeing myself be part of a political formation, I joined numerous mobilizations and rallies forwarding various advocacies. I also learned to articulate to get myself heard. More specifically, I have joined and eventually led nationwide networks that played vital parts in passing landmark policies like the Reproductive Health, Sin Tax Law, and hopefully soon the Freedom of Information law. These are only some of the experiences of leadership and growth that I would not have otherwise enjoyed if I focused on my academics alone.

In a way, this reminds me that pursuing our dreams can only mean great for us. Going to my dream school sure was a challenge and a sacrifice but I now see that it is one that pays off. From my humble beginnings, I cannot help but to dream more in a different way, moving forward.

Back in the province, coming from a low middle income family, second of three kids, and a son to a housewife and a truck mechanic, financial incapacities have limited my family. I had to work hard as a student in doing my best in school and in my studies. As a result, I was able to finish among the top students of my elementary class in Holy Family Academy. This allowed me to continue my studies in high school for free. In high school, I learned to be multifaceted and to go beyond mere academics.  I emerged as an active student who engaged in a lot of areas. I wrote for the school publication, played in the school theatre group, and was a consistent officer of the student council.

While these things deserve credit serving as important factors of why I think I also did well in college, I also think that in life there are certain blessings that come upon us without us expecting them. Blessings that if utilized and treasured well, would help us blossom more.

When I entered UP as a freshman in 2013, I was fortunate enough to be able to receive a scholarship from ACI Philippines. Fast forward to my last year in college, the scholarship foundation is still there to support me in all my endeavors. Despite all my involvements, the organization has been proud and more than willing to help for me to pursue my passions. Honestly, I do not think I can experience all these things I mentioned without the assistance I received from the organization. I wouldn’t be able to develop to who I am without the endowment of a scholarship grant that fueled my education and other needs.

In turn, because I value much the trust given to me by the organization, I see to it that I do well in my academics despite my involvements in other matters. The hard work has paid off with consistent college and university awards every semester. Still, I know the gratitude does not end there. My paybacks aren’t constrained with doing well in academics. As time passes by, I make sure that I learn more and more from the organization that supports me, especially from the things they advise me with and with the work they generate.

In UP, we are taught to “serve the people” and to be the “hope of the nation”. But through my interactions with my benefactors and everyone who has helped to send me to college, I realized further the meaning of being the hopes and servants of the Philippines. My own experiences and appreciation has made me realize that I do have a better role to play after my college education. As an aspiring economist, I always have this mindset to give back, to be an “ekonomista para sa bayan”. But beyond that I owe the nation and hence I believe I have an obligation to the succeeding generations. Myself, being someone who benefitted greatly from kindheartedness of benefactors who sent me to school I also dream of sending my own scholars to school in the future, in turn expanding the cycle of creating new hopes for the nation.

When I was young, one of my dreams was to become president of the Philippines. I so believed that it was a prime position to be able to make a difference in the society. But looking back at my journey, especially as a scholar, and as I pursue my dreams, I take delight in acknowledging that it is with the little things that we make the most difference. Sometimes, it is not with our own dreams that we gain the biggest, but by ensuring that we enkindle the dreams of others.

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