Twenty young women make up first batch of U-Go, Ayala Foundation college scholars

Although she comes from a family of limited means, 21-year-old Apple Sangre of Dasmariñas, Cavite, has always been an achiever, and has never let herself be bogged down by any challenges. At a time when the use of mobile devices has become an essential part of online learning, she didn’t let her lack of a proper phone discourage her; instead, she applied for a job as a cashier at an electronics store, and saved her earnings to buy a new, school-ready mobile phone. Today, Apple is a third-year BS Development Management student at Cavite State University.

Apple Sangre of Dasmariñas, Cavite (center, with her mother), one of the recipients of the U-Go scholarship, with (from left) Mariana Zobel de Ayala, member of the U-Go Global Board of Directors and BPI Senior Vice President for Consumer Bank Marketing; John Wood, U-Go founder and CEO; Joanna Duarte, Senior Director for Social Development of Ayala Foundation; and Anthony Oundjian, member of the U-Go PH Board of Advisors

Meanwhile, Laide del Rosario, 19, has been living independently in her home province of Surigao del Norte for a few years. But independence, for a very young woman who has always dreamed of earning a college degree, can be challenging. To afford both her tuition and her living expenses, she works as an assistant at a beauty salon. Today, she is a first-year BS Secondary Education student at Mindanao State University.

Apple and Laide are just two of the 20 admirable young women who comprise the inaugural batch of U-Go scholars. The U-Go scholar grant provides financial assistance for high-achieving, motivated Filipino women currently enrolled at state colleges and universities, with the aim of helping keep them in school to finish their degrees and increasing their participation in the labor market, while also opening up opportunities for improved income and professional fulfillment. Ayala Foundation, the social development arm of the Ayala group of companies, administers the scholarship and manages its implementation.

These young scholars, hailing from all over the country, were introduced at a special gathering held on November 19 at Ayala Triangle Tower 2. Present at the event were John Wood, U-Go founder and CEO; Mariana Zobel de Ayala, member of the U-Go Global Board of Directors and BPI Senior Vice President for Consumer Bank Marketing; and Joanna Duarte, Senior Director for Social Development of Ayala Foundation, representing foundation President Ruel Maranan.

Said John Wood: “I am thrilled that U-Go, with the support of so many families, is going to be able to help a generation of young women in the Philippines to gain the lifelong gift of higher education. We know from history that societies reach new levels of economic growth, and gender equality, when young women are able to pursue university degrees and then meaningful careers. We will start with at least 100 U-Go scholars and hope to quickly increase that to 1,000 over the coming years.

Said Mariana Zobel de Ayala: “In just one month, we received 3,300 applications from young women across the country—from Davao, Agusan del Sur, Zamboanga, Coron, to Cavite and Baliuag. We are humbled by the incredible drive in each of them, and their sincere desire to make a difference, both in their own lives as well as in that of those in the communities around them. Today, we are thrilled to award the first 20 scholarships— marking the inaugural cohort for U-Go Philippines, in partnership with the Ayala Foundation. We look forward to recognizing the next 100 scholars within the year, in preparation for the 2023 school year.”

Said Ruel Maranan: “It is truly a privilege for us at Ayala Foundation to collaborate with U-Go in this worthy endeavor. Supporting young women’s goal of finishing their studies and finding a fulfilling career is perfectly aligned with our work at the foundation, as we strive to contribute to nurturing communities where people are productive, creative, self-reliant, and proud to be Filipino. The Ayala Foundation team is grateful to U-Go’s John Wood and to Ms. Mariana Zobel de Ayala for partnering with us to make these young women’s dream a reality.”

By focusing on women, the grant seeks to contribute to narrowing the gender gap in the local labor market. As of 2019, female labor participation in the country is only about 49 percent, compared with 76 percent of men. The World Bank estimates that increasing women’s labor supply by 0.5 percentage points per year would increase GDP per capita by almost 10 percent by 2050.

All scholars will receive an amount that covers their school and living expenses, allowing them to devote themselves fully to their academic work. The scholarship renews every year until they graduate, so long as they remain in good academic standing. An initial batch of 100 scholars will be welcomed into the program in the coming months, with a medium-term goal of awarding 1,000 U-Go scholars across the nation.

The Philippines is the seventh country in which U-Go will operate. The California-based nonprofit launched by Room to Read founder John Wood is also present in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Vietnam.

Article submitted by Paul de Guzman, Ayala Foundation, Inc.