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PIA Press Release
Tuesday, January 03, 2012

DOST scholarship program: beating poverty, changing lives

by Franklin P. Gumapon

An old adage which says “poverty is not a hindrance to success” holds true for this young professional from Lingasad, Polanco, Zamboanga del Norte.

Nestor G. Acala, now 26, never thought he could finish college since his parents were merely tenants of a small corn farm owned by a former employee of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR). They barely earned enough to feed 11 children of whom Nestor is the sixth.

Nestor’s parents may have failed to provide their children with adequate food, but the pangs of hunger had never toppled the lad’s cerebral powers one whit. He demonstrated exceptional intelligence in his class more especially in Mathematics since elementary through college. However, he only ended up salutatorian in his elementary and high school, as he could hardly compete in the extra-curricular activities and other projects which required some amount of money.

Extra-curricular activities are given 30 percent weight in determining the ranks of honor students in elementary and high school levels. Nestor was found wanting in this aspect. He obtained his elementary education at Lingasad Elementary School and his secondary education from Polanco National High School, all in Polanco town.

Nestor also admitted that he would often come to class without meals. “What difference would it be if I stayed home with an empty belly? At least, in school, my head gets filled with knowledge,” he declared.

A life changing opportunity came to Nestor when he took and passed the DOST-SEI (Department of Science and Technology-Science Education Institute) scholarship examinations under Republic Act (RA) 7687 otherwise known as the Science and Technology Scholarship Act of 1994. This scholarship program is granted to less privileged students but with high aptitude in science and technology.

As a DOST scholar, he enrolled in Bachelor of Science in Mathematics at the Mindanao State University (MSU) in Marawi City in 2003, enjoying free tuition fee, book and uniform allowances and a monthly stipend of P2,200. Part of his monthly living allowance was sent to his parents to help provide for the school needs of his siblings.

In March 2006, Nestor finished his degree in Mathematics as summa cum laude, the seventh summa cum laude graduate produced by the university. Right on his graduation day, he was asked to sign an employment contract with the university as Mathematics instructor.

While teaching at MSU, he also pursued his Master’s degree in Mathematics there which he finished with the Best Thesis award in 2008.

Presently, Nestor is enjoying a DOST scholarship for his doctorate degree in Mathematics at the University of Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City. A part of his stipend also goes to the schooling of his two siblings and a nephew.

DOST offers scholarship grants up to graduate school to deserving Filipino students with high aptitude in science and technology.

A recent DOST publication said of Nestor: “He is just one of the many financially burdened but deserving students that DOST, through SEI, has assisted. His story serves as an inspiration to many upcoming DOST scholars to keep on going and pursue their dreams despite all odds.” (ALT/FPG/PIA-Zamboanga del Norte)

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