Aquino visits Girlstown, witnesses ‘miracle’
SILANG, Cavite—For once, the “inspirational leader” of the nation was the one struck with inspiration.
President Aquino said he was inspired by the students and teachers of The Sisters of Mary Girlstown institution during his visit on Monday.
“When I was invited by Sr. Maria [Cho] and Sr. Elena [Belarmino] to visit The Sisters of Mary Girlstown, they asked me to give an inspirational message,” the President said in Filipino.
“This is what I will say after I saw the students and teachers in this school: You are inspiring.”
Aquino, asked to deliver an inspirational message to the 3,400 pupils of the school, said it was commendable that the children who came from the “poorest of the poor” families continue their schooling despite hardships.
He said the children of the school were bringing hope to the country.
“You are still very young but you are now burdened with big challenges. You are giving hope not only to yourselves but to your loved ones. You bring hope to our country,” the President said.
Aquino said the Girlstown students epitomized the belief that Filipinos could contribute to nation-building if given the opportunity.
“You proved that if a Filipino is given an opportunity, despite what condition he is in or where he came from, he will not waste it,” he said.
“Instead, he will do everything he can to contribute to the meaningful transformation of our society.”
The Sisters of Mary Girlstown is a nonstock, nonprofit, nonpaying high school that caters to the children of the poorest of the poor families in the country.
Run by the Sisters of Mary of the Poor Congregation, it provides its pupils with food, shelter and clothing until they graduate. Donations from benefactors fund the operational expenses of the school.
During his visit, Aquino inspected the classrooms and laboratories where technical and vocational courses are taught.
Girlstown adopts a curriculum that enables students to choose their “trade” or the technical course they intend to specialize in. This, in turn, assures them of employment after graduation.
The courses, certified by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda), include dressmaking, contact center services, technical drafting, computer hardware servicing and culinary arts.
The President assured Girlstown of continued government support by tapping Tesda and the Department of Education (DepEd) to fund scholarships for the pupils.
To date, Girlstown and its counterpart Boystown have produced more than 60,000 graduates since the establishment of the school in the mid-1980s.
Mary Grace Balcac once thought continuing her education after finishing grade school was a distant dream.
Yet, despite coming from a family in Baguio City classified as among the poorest of the poor, she is now on her way to realizing her dream.
Balcac’s story is shared by students who live in The Sisters of Mary Girlstown in Biga, Silang town, Cavite province.
3 other campuses
Girlstown in Biga sits on a 3-hectare property complete with dormitories, laboratories, a running track and a memorial center named after the school’s late founder, Fr. Aloysius Schwartz.
The curriculum was tailored to adapt to a globalizing world and designed to instill digital literacy, inventive thinking, effective communication and productivity.
The Sisters of Mary of Banneux, the religious order founded by Schwartz, runs three other campuses in the Philippines: Boystown in Adlas, Cavite; a second Girlstown in Talisay City, Cebu province; and a second Boystown in Minglanilla town, also in Cebu.
The children are admitted in Girlstown, as in the other campuses, through a special admission process.
The nuns scour various areas in the country to look for potential applicants. The candidates should belong to families classified as poorest of the poor in the area and should be able to pass written exams in math and English subjects.
The admission process is in line with the school’s mission to provide poor but deserving students with the best education.
Father Al, as the founder is fondly known, started the first Boystown and Girlstown schools in 1985 on the invitation of Jaime Cardinal Sin, the late Archbishop of Manila.
15 students at start
From the original 15 students who were children of tuberculosis patients and detainees, the four campuses now teach 11,000 students.
Father Al was a holy man who dedicated his whole life in the service of the poor, Sister Belarmino, the order’s vicar general, told Inquirer.net.
When Father Al was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, in 1989, he continued working and even established Boystown and Girlstown schools in Mexico.
All told, the Sisters of Mary and its male religious counterpart, the Brothers of Christ, which Father Al also founded, serve in five countries.
Father Al received the Magsaysay Award for international understanding for his work outside the Philippines in 1983. He died in 1992.
A decade later, a cause that recognized his holiness was introduced and has since been forwarded to the Vatican for his possible beatification and subsequent canonization.
Originally posted: 8:44 AM | Monday, November 3rd, 2014
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