Challenging destiny: An SM Foundation scholar’s path to success

For millions of Filipinos, pursuing formal education, especially a college degree, is fraught with obstacles.

It was no different for Fritz Mendez, who grew up in a vulnerable community where the chances of escaping poverty were next to impossible. The situation took a turn for the worse after his mother lost her job due to the war in Lebanon, forcing him to quit high school so the family could save money to prioritize essentials to survive. 

“When you live in our community, it seems expected of you not to go to college or have a degree because poverty is very rampant. I, however, had a dream inside me to show to my community and family that I can have a college degree,” Mendez said.

Defying the odds

With nothing to lose, he took a chance and applied for a scholarship with the SM Foundation and secured a spot.

“Having an opportunity to fulfill that dream through the SM Scholarship is indeed a blessing I prayed for. I took all the courage to apply and the SM Foundation gave me a shot,” he said.

Since 1993, the foundation of one of the country’s biggest conglomerates has been providing scholarships to qualified students.

SM Scholarship Program alumni Fritz takes his turn in inspiring the new generation of SM scholars. (Contributed) 
“The SM Group has taught me that family is everything. As an SM scholar, their encouragement and support showed me the true meaning of family. Now, working at BDO Unibank, I get to experience and demonstrate how to nurture my family". 
- Fritz Mendez  

Best defense vs poverty

To date, over 4,200 students have benefited from the program.

“SM founder Henry Sy believed that education is the best defense against poverty,” the company said.

“For him, one of the most impactful ways to make a difference in a community is by helping a student attain a college degree – its multiplier effect goes on as that graduate eventually becomes capable of helping his family, the company he will work for and the society as a whole,” it added.

Banking career

Mendez graduated with a degree in Accounting Technology in 2014 before deciding to start and pursue a career in the SM Group’s flagship bank, BDO Unibank Inc.

Today, Mendez is a senior teller while also serving as the Regional Director of the BDO Employees Association for the Visayas region.

“The SM Group has taught me that family is everything. As an SM scholar, their encouragement and support showed me the true meaning of family. Now, working at BDO Unibank, I get to experience and demonstrate how to nurture my family,” he said.

Never give up

Reflecting on the past decade, Mendez said he was happy to provide for his family’s needs, especially for his mother who supported his dream of a better life.

“Beyond this, the SM Scholarship gave hope to me, a high school student who could have accepted his fate,” he said.

“The SM Scholarship not only made me the only degree holder in a broken family but also provided an opportunity for me to envision a brighter, more promising future. It highlighted the potential for students like me to begin anew and forge our own paths toward success,” he added.

About the author
Miguel R. Camus
Miguel R. Camus

Miguel R. Camus has been a reporter covering various domestic business topics since 2009.

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