Originally published on The Philippine Star
QUICK READ: Energy Development Corporation gives students the opportunity to improve their lives and enhance their communities through its flagship education program, SIKAT.
MANILA, Philippines — Twenty-two-year-old Renelyn Udtohan of Valencia, Negros Oriental is one of the millions of Filipino college students who patted themselves on the back for successfully finishing their studies this year despite the continued disruption brought about by the global COVID-19 pandemic.
She is particularly proud because she graduated summa cum laude from her Bachelor of Science in Mathematics course at the Negros Oriental State University (NORSU), one of the premier public academic tertiary institutions in the province.
Most importantly, her community has even more reason to celebrate because she achieved another distinction—Udtohan has attained the highest graduation honors so far among alumni of the prestigious SIKAT scholarship program.
Established in 2011, SIKAT is the banner social investment program in education of First Gen-owned Energy Development Corporation (EDC), the country’s pioneer and largest renewable energy (RE) producer by way of geothermal operations.
SIKAT identifies high school graduates within EDC’s production sites across the Philippines and capacitates them for acceptance into state universities and colleges, primarily the University of the Philippines (UP) system. Upon admission, SIKAT further supports their college education not only financially but through personality and social development skills.
SIKAT’s assistance even extends to mentoring, career guidance, and board exam review sessions when applicable. Eventually, through job placement assistance upon graduation, SIKAT scholars are able to find jobs primarily within EDC itself or elsewhere in the private or public sector.
This is what sets SIKAT apart from the usual educational scholarship programs in that it takes a holistic, end-to-end approach in providing support for Filipino students. Moreover, SIKAT was designed to complement EDC’s banner environmental regreening project BINHI by producing eventual decision-makers in the workforce with a sensibility toward environmental protection and conservation.
“SIKAT takes precedence among EDC’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives because it has demonstrated the capability of education to break intergenerational poverty within marginalized communities,” says Atty. Allan V. Barcena, EDC assistant vice president and head of the company’s corporate relations and communications division.
SIKAT is a response to the persistent lack of access to quality education in the country. Barcena cites a recent study that shows only 23 percent of Filipinos are able to finish college. “We believe that investment in education creates the biggest societal value,” he explains. “Our scholars not only attain a college degree but become productive citizens of our country.”
As its name implies—“sikat” in Filipino pertaining to a ray of light—the program seeks to illuminate the path to a brighter future. “SIKAT is a manifestation of the Lopez Group’s core belief in the power of knowledge and learning in transforming and uplifting the lives of Filipinos, as part of our conglomerate’s mission of regenerative development not only in terms of a cleaner energy future but also in all other aspects of nation-building,” adds Barcena.
Since its inception, SIKAT has seen its scholars and graduates break more barriers and post more record-breaking achievements. For 2022, the program produced 43 graduates, including Udtohan as its first summa cum laude, along with two magna cum laude graduates from Sorsogon State University and UP–Visayas, and 16 cum laude graduates.
This year’s batch also includes an additional 15 graduates belonging to various groups of indigenous peoples (IP) in Mindanao, specially selected to be part of the SIKAT program. This is another remarkable area of impact of SIKAT, since some of EDC’s host communities in its Mount Apo Geothermal Power Plant in Kidapawan City, North Cotabato can be found in traditional IP domains. Thus, working closely with the IP sector is a hallmark of EDC’s CSR strategies.
Thus far, SIKAT has sent a total of 256 scholars to state colleges and universities, and produced a total of 133 graduates, 75 percent of whom are now gainfully employed in the private sector. The fresh graduates, meanwhile, are actively looking for job opportunities or preparing for their board exams.
SIKAT’s scope also includes support and assistance for students in basic education. As part of its annual outreach activities, SIKAT distributes school supplies and participates in the Department of Education’s Brigada Eskwela school preparation drive.
To date, SIKAT counts 90 public schools as part of its yearly outreach program, benefitting more than 20,000 children. The program also extends financial assistance to selected K–12 students, apart from training for teachers and tutorial sessions for the kids.
Onwards and upwards
Udtohan is one of those beneficiaries whom SIKAT has been supporting since high school. For now, she is setting her sights on continuing education, and has entered the Master of Science in Mathematics program at the University of San Carlos in Cebu through a scholarship grant from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).
She recognizes the invaluable help that SIKAT has provided her and how the program has brought countless opportunities for marginalized youth such as her: “We were able to become individuals we could never have imagined before,” she said in an address to this year’s SIKAT graduates in a special online event.
She also reminds them of their duty, a simple but important mindset that is the only requirement asked of them by their benefactors: “As we move forward, remember to pay it forward. Let us continue to serve our community and be a source of hope for the next generation.”
With such enthusiasm and optimism, the future can only become so much brighter for promising young minds such as Udtohan, thanks to the enduring efforts of EDC and programs such as SIKAT.
Energy Development Corporation (EDC) is First Gen Corporation’s 100-percent RE subsidiary with over 1,480MW total installed capacity that accounts for 19 percent of the country’s total installed RE capacity. Its 1,188MW geothermal portfolio comprises 62 percent of the country’s total installed geothermal capacity and is the third largest geothermal producer in the world.
The Energy Development Corporation (EDC) is the leading 100% clean, renewable energy company in the Philippines, with over 40 years of experience in geothermal technology. With power plants situated across the country, EDC is the world’s largest vertically integrated geothermal company. The company also strives to provide the best customer and value-adding services to all its customers. To learn more about lowering your business’ carbon footprint by shifting to renewable energy, visit energy.com.ph or email [email protected].