By: Ricardo Espitia, PCAFPD Student Affairs
2023 marks the 40th anniversary of PCAFPD supporting scholars in the Philippines. At its inception, PCAFPD supported five students who received their college degrees in 1987. Now we are supporting over 100 scholars. We could not do this without the dedication and skills of our Manila-volunteer-based Ituloy Team, which was launched in 2017. The team is headed by PCAFPD Vice President for Philippines Operation Roland de Jesus, who succeeded his father Modesto de Jesus, one of the founders of PCAFPD and a former Peace Corps staff member. The rest of the team is composed of former PCAFPD scholars who have now graduated and volunteer their time to administer the day-to-day operations of the program in the Philippines. These bright young people serve as mentors to the scholars, administer the scholarship funds to the scholars, and keep the U.S. based PCAFPD Board abreast of the higher educational environment in the Philippines. Our program would not be as successful as it is without their commitment. Here we highlight one of the Ituloy team members Rachel Briones.
Rachel was born in Laguna but raised and currently resides in Cavite. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Communication at the University of the Philippines – Manila in 2014 with the support of the PCAFPD scholarship. Since she was a child, her dream was to be a writer and while in college she freelanced as a way to exercise the skills she was learning through her studies. Immediately after college she secured a job at a high-end furniture company and art gallery. She wore many hats from curating content for its numerous platforms and organizing gallery openings.
For the past six years, Rachel has been working for Pass it Forward as a website content writer and social media specialist. The platform facilitates community for non-profit sector organizations, volunteers, and the donor community. She finds her role fulfilling because her work enables change and helps others. Knowing that her efforts and projects are contributing to positive impacts makes her feel happy that she can use her education and skills for something good.
Rachel first got involved with the Ituloy Team in 2019 when attending a PCAFPD scholar alumni association (PSAA) meeting, of which she was a board member. She attended her first Ituloy Team meetings initially as a PSAA representative. She later transitioned to become an official member of the team when she began coordinating scholarship applications and scholar onboarding. Currently, she handles the scholarship application process. It includes checking applications for completeness, advising applicants on the requirements, and preparing the application package for PCAFPD Board review and scholar selection. She also coordinates the onboarding process for new scholars by notifying the selected scholars of their awards, ensuring they have bank accounts set up, they have passed their entry requirements for school, and hosting an orientation. Additionally, she manages the PSAA Facebook page and group and initiated a Facebook campaign to reach applicants from underrepresented parts of the Philippines – an initiative that doubled our application numbers from one year to the next.
For Rachel, being part of the Ituloy team is a great opportunity to give back to the organization that supported her studies. She says that without PCAFPD she would not be where she is today and is honored to help other Filipino students get quality education and rise above their challenges. Our scholars say working with members of the Ituloy team like Rachel makes them feel part of a community and that Rachel inspires them to complete their studies. Rachel’s favorite part of being on the Ituloy Team is calling the new scholars to inform them that they are selected and hearing how happy they are. The opportunity for her to share their joy with them is heartwarming and she looks forward to this every year.
This motivation makes Rachel, like all members of the Ituloy team, special. They share the humble ambition to pay it forward to other scholars and to be champions for their success. PCAFPD is grateful for members of the team like Rachel Briones for volunteering their time, skills, and efforts for the well-being of our scholars.