This daughter of a Jeepney driver not only study at one of the most expensive and prestigious schools in the country, but also inspired everyone as she recently graduated as Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) class of 2019 valedictorian.
Ateneo scholar Reycel Hyacinth Bendaña graduated with a degree in Bachelor of Arts major in Management Economics, minor in Development, as Program awardee and Cum Laude.
Bendaña was also the president of the student council (Sanggunian) of Ateneo de Manila University, and recipient of St. Ignatius Award for Most Outstanding Scholar, Most Outstanding Individual for Leadership and Service, and Most Outstanding Student Group for Leadership and Service.
A day before her graduation, Ateneo published her essay in their website, where she narrated the struggles she had faced and how she managed to achieve success through the help of the school by answering the prompt, “What has the Ateneo done for you?”.
The young lady submitted an essay titled “Prayer for Generosity” as part of her application for the valedictorian selection.
In her essay, Bendaña wrote about her personal struggles and her gratitude to the generous people behind her education:
“My father is a jeepney driver, whose example taught me to work harder than everyone else—not only because hard work is high dignity but also, while it is no guarantee of success, anything less than that for us would mean complete failure. I always worked harder than everyone else to get the same opportunities they had. It’s the least I can do to compensate for my lack of privilege. This is a reality of life I have long embraced: shouting as jeepney barker for my father to taking odd jobs in high school. I worked hard to be here.
Yet, I am aware that my full scholarship exists not because I simply earned it. All my work would have been for nothing if there was no slot on offer in the first place. I am here because someone, by the grace of their heart, gave generously to fund my education. I am here because a generous Ateneo exists, where someone like me who does not share the wealthier background of the common Atenean can be entrusted with the Presidency of the school’s Student Council.”
Bendaña then included the social inequality she experienced growing up in from a poor family with barely not enough food on their table.
“I was raised in poverty—there was never enough food on our table, my parents were not always regular employees, and as students, my sister and I had childhoods filled with promissory notes for delayed tuition fee payments. I was seven years old when I joined my first rally. I stood with my father at the frontline of a jeepney strike that aimed to raise the minimum fare. For some, the rising price of fuel meant less profit. For my family, it meant skipping another meal; it meant more debt and more promissory notes.”
She also hopes that our country would provide more opportunities to help the underprivileged children like her and expressed her gratefulness to the school, her family, friends, and mentors who helped her to achieve her dreams.