Fueling dreams in Iligan

From trust came HOPE (Helping Other People Earn), says Alvin Pacot, the first and unofficial beneficiary of a program that seeks to help college students get online jobs and fund their way through college.

HOPE mentors (from left) Acelou
Asister, Alvin Pacot, Ace Asister and
Braille Pacot.
If not for his uncle’s trust, he would not have been able to buy a laptop, which made it easier for him to continue working as a Web developer, he adds.

But to Emmanuel Escol, a Math teacher at the Iligan City East High School, trust wasn’t an issue when he agreed to finance the purchase of a laptop for Alvin, an Information Technology student at the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology. Escol had taken Alvin and younger brother Braille under his wing when both left Agusan del Sur to study at MSU-IIT.

By that time, Alvin had already found online work upon his urging, he says. “I was bothered by the long hours that he and his friends spent playing online games and I wanted them to use their time more wisely. Since they are computer-literate, I directed them to sites that offered online work so that they could be more productive.”

When Alvin was able to pay his uncle back, he realized that he had stumbled on a sustainable model with which to help other deserving college students. The funds continue to be used as loan money for a laptop. With the P50,000 awarded recently by Smart Communications Inc. (Smart) under payITfwd, Escol hopes to loan out two more laptops to a growing pool of college students trained in online work.

Paying it forward

HOPE is one of 10 projects that was recently recognized under payITfwd, Smart’s social development initiative that aims to lend its technologies to “keep the good going”, in the words of Smart Public Affairs Group head Ramon Isberto.

Mobile connectivity

Public high school teacher
Emmanuel Escol says
HOPE shows underprivileged
college kids that they can
use the hours they spend
playing online video games
to fund their education
Aside from the cash prize, HOPE was awarded five tablets. Smart Bro provided connectivity by adding a Smart Bro pocket Wi-Fi and P3,000 load.

Escol, who is an advocate of using information and communication technology to enhance learning, has decided to use the prizes beyond HOPE.

The mobile connectivity provided by the Smart Bro pocket WiFi allows Escol to make his

Math and Media Arts classes more exciting, giving his students access to online instructional videos, interactive exercises, and additional learning opportunities.

He is also coordinating with the Alternative Learning System teacher-in-charge on how the tablets can be best deployed as teaching aids to as many out-of-school youth beneficiaries as possible.

As for HOPE, it has grown from a simple loan into a program that seeks to equip college students with the skills needed to find, qualify for, and earn from online jobs so that they can fund their studies.

“This is not just about giving or lending laptops. This is about empowering the students so that they can finish college and they can have a better life,” says Escol.

He has asked Alvin and his friends who are currently studying and working online to guide fellow students who are interested in doing the same to finance their college education.

Sharing his blessings

College students work online to fund their education
and provide tutorials to friends wanting to do the same.
Escol has converted part of his home into the HOPE center, where the mentors sit down with their charges and equip them with the skills needed to get online work.

It is still a small operation with friends bringing in friends and where everything is for free. Escol is not charging for office rental or for the connectivity, which he pays for on a monthly basis. Neither do the mentors for conducting tutorials.

“I want to share my blessings through HOPE. This is really a great program that enables other people to earn and support themselves financially so that they can get a college degree,” explains Ace Asister, who has already earned a degree in Civil Engineering thanks to online work.

Alvin also intends to keep helping even after graduating from college because “it is really good to help.” His earnings have enabled him to move out of his uncle’s house and into a boarding house nearer the university.

He has good reason to keep returning to Escol’s house, though. He has HOPE.


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