Born to Be: the Deutsche Bank youth engagement programme
An education that impacts generations
Worldwide, there is substantial evidence to show that a college degree improves a person’s prospects in life. Yet higher education does not only benefit the individual. It can have a trickle-down effect that lasts for generations. In a country like the Philippines, the income that a graduate brings home can be the start of a better life for the whole family. In addition to improving the family’s standard of living, their success can raise the aspirations of brothers and sisters and give them the opportunity to reach their full potential as well.
The cost of higher education in the Philippines puts it beyond the reach of many low-income families. Even if students qualify for scholarships that cover their tuition fees, there are still living expenses, books and materials to pay for. Deutsche Bank helps students from underprivileged backgrounds to overcome this barrier through Born to Be.
Through its partnership with the AkarakA charity, Deutsche Bank provides financial assistance to students who have earned scholarships from some of the best universities in the Philippines, Cambodia and Singapore.
AkarakA works with NGOs and educational institutions to identify candidates for this assistance. In the Philippines, it targets students from villages built by the Gawad Kalinga NGO to rehouse poor families from Manila’s slums. Assessment of the academic record of each candidate and their financial situation is followed by interviews with the student and their immediate family to make sure every scholarship achieves the greatest impact.
The S$1,000 a year on average that AkarakA disburses to scholars eases the financial burden, enabling them to concentrate on their studies. Yet there are other obstacles to success for these young people. They are the first in their families to receive higher education. As they step into the unknown, they have mentors from Deutsche Bank to guide them. Scholars are matched with local Bank employees who provide support and insights into the world of employment. This relationship helps the scholars to negotiate the complexities of university life and pursue their goal of a high-paying job.
Learning to climb the mountain
Deutsche Bank employees from across the Asia Pacific region volunteer with AkarakA. Edgar-Jose Ampil, who works in the Risk and Control function at Deutsche Bank in Manila, is a long-time corporate volunteer and leads a group of volunteers who mentor AkarakA scholars studying at De La Salle University in Manila. He says, “I wanted to do this because not everyone gets the same opportunities in life. Education can change that. It is a great equaliser.”
Every month during the academic year, Edgar meets the scholars on campus to offer support that ranges from help with academic assignments to tips on how to deal with challenges outside the classroom. “I mentor a group of around 50 scholars who are at various stages of their studies. Being part of a group gives them a natural support network. They help each other deal with adversity. That reduces the risk they will drop out before completing their degree,” he explains.
To graduate, students are required to complete a thesis in English, an especially daunting prospect for the scholars. Edgar has developed a novel method to prepare his charges: “We hike up a mountain. It shows them that you solve a problem one step at a time. That’s a lesson for life.”
The next step
As the scholars progress through college, career choices become the main topic of discussion when they meet with Edgar. “These are young people who come from families where parents may drive taxis, work in construction or have no job at all. A degree from De La Salle opens up opportunities in the corporate world, but there’s no one at home who can prepare them for interviews and tell them what to expect. As mentors, we bridge that gap,” he says.
Edgar organises workshops to help scholars with resumes and job applications and brings in colleagues from the Bank and other professionals to talk about the recruitment process and roles for graduates. He also works with the group on presentation and other employability skills they will need for the next stage of their journey. A degree will only get scholars so far, he observes. “Encouraging the students to talk about their achievements and ambitions, which they are not accustomed to doing, helps to get them work-ready.”
The first cohort of AkarakA scholars graduated in 2014. Of the 101 students who graduated, 88 found immediate employment in careers ranging from financial services and management consultancy to medicine, teaching and the creative industries. Others chose to continue their studies at a higher level.
Edgar was there to see his scholars receive their degrees. He says, “Completing a degree means so much to these young people. I see them transformed. It brings a huge sense of self-worth to be able to support your family with the money you can earn as a graduate.”
Behind every degree is an inspiring story of courage, perseverance and fulfilment, he says, like the student who was 27 years old when he graduated. “Marvel had been out of school for seven years during his youth. Instead of being cast aside, he was able to complete a degree thanks to the scholarship he received from AkarakA. I’m proud I was able to help him as a mentor, but Marvel fulfilled his potential himself through his determination and hard work.”
Kristen is another member of the class of 2014. She endured financial hardship until she received a scholarship from AkarakA. She’s now working in technology for a global financial institution in Manila and on the fast track to a management role. Her salary means better housing, nutrition, healthcare and education for the rest of the family. “AkarakA helped me realise my dream. It’s important to me now to motivate and inspire others in my family,” she says.
And as Edgar explains, it’s not only the students and their families who are lifted by their achievement. “It has an impact on the whole community. People see what these young people have accomplished and think, ‘If you did it, I can too.’”