Catherine Kate Cuenco, a beneficiary of the Special Program for Employment of Students (SPES), is determined to learn as many workplace skills and experiences as possible while studying, in the hopes of finding a stable career to help her family after she graduates.

Born and raised in Mandaluyong City and second among the four siblings, Catherine takes pride of being raised by a single mother who used to work as a caretaker.

“Siya lamang ang nagtataguyod sa aming pamilya at wala po siyang regular na sahod. Dati po siyang nag-aalaga ng matanda subalit yung inaalagaan niya po ay sumakabilang buhay na kaya po talaga ninais kong makatulong sa aking pamilya,” she said.

Catherine is on her 2nd year in college, currently pursuing Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree, Major in Marketing Management at Rizal Technological University. She looked forward to completing her College degree as it will bring her closer to her dream of becoming a public servant one day.

“Sobrang importante na magkaroon ng tamang foundation sa pag-aaral…yan yung magiging sandata mo sa pagharap sa buhay…lalo na po sa larangan ng pagtatrabaho. Kaya lagi kong iniisip na kahit anong mangyari na problema kailangan yung pag-aaral natin i-prioritize natin kasi yun yung magsisilbing way para makahanap ka ng tamang trabaho,” she said.

While earning a College degree might be a costly endeavor for Catherine and her family, she knew she had to look for a job to pay for her school fees and family expenses. However, her drive to fulfill her dreams led her to sought the assistance of the Mandaluyong City Local Government Unit (LGU), where she was informed that there were applications open for the Special Program for Employment of Students (SPES).

“Nung natanggap po ako, sobrang saya ko kasi alam ko na may bago akong experience, at yung kahit bata ako makakapagtrabaho ako in the government,” she said.

SPES is one of the flagship programs of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) for the youth, which aims to provide temporary employment to poor but deserving students to help augment their family’s income while ensuring that the program beneficiaries are able to continue their education.

Since 2017, Catherine provided administrative support at the Mandaluyong LGU’s Sports Development Office (MSDO) where she learned how to teach and engage with children on topics related to sports. During the pandemic, she was assigned as a SPES encoder at the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) on a work from home arrangement.

“Nung nasa MSDO ako, nakakalabas po kami sa ibat-ibang barangay… nakakapagturo din po kami at get along with other kids. Nagtuturo po kami ng ibat-ibang sports sa mga bata po ng Mandaluyong… Ngayong pandemic po, na-assign po ako sa CSWDO at nag-eencode kami ng mga personal information and data ng SAP beneficiaries ng ibat-ibang barangay. Gumagawa rin po kami ng weekly report na kailangan po naming ipasa sa aming team leader,” she said.

While the SPES did allow her to save money for her family and shoulder her school expenses, she also find it intrinsically rewarding—she was able to build confidence over time and developed her interpersonal skills. Her supervisor and SPES Coordinator, Nory Grace Digal also lauded her good attitude at work.

“Masipag at maaasahang bata si Kate. Nagawa n’ya ng tama at maayos ang kanyang trabaho,” said Digal.

Meanwhile, Catherine thanked DOLE and PESO for their continued implementation of the SPES amidst the pandemic and hoped that the program will reach more poor but deserving students.

“Isa po ako sa saksi at naging parte ng programang ito na talagang nakapagpabago po talaga ng buhay ko. Nagpapasalamat po ako na dumating itong SPES… sana mas marami pa po silang maabot na kagaya ko na nais talagang tumulong sa kanilang pamilya at matustusan yung gastusin sa kanilang pag-aaral,” she said.

END / Hershey Aquino