Always in the “noisy list”, Kent Ian Vargas recalled how as an elementary student he was scolded for being too talkative. And he thought it was fine getting an average grade of 78 in class. “Laging napagtatawanan sa klase kasi napapagalitan dahil ‘di ko naiintindihan si teacher,” shared Vargas until he realized he had to do something about it.

It was the same for Jullo Babagay. Failing his quizzes and exams, he was then considered an academically challenged student. “My grades ranged from 75 to 77 in Math, Science, English, and other subjects,” said Babagay.

Many students in the Philippines share this experience. Yet for education-focused non-profit organization Silid-Aralan, Inc. (SAI) there is hope. Together with individual and institutional partners, SAI believes in shifting mindsets so students can discover their purpose, nurture their love for learning and succeed in life.

Like hundreds of SAI alumni, both Vargas and Babagay underwent the Ground Zero Program. With interventions customized to their passions, hobbies and learning styles, SAI students feel and experience how fun it is to learn. They attain high grades in school and become achievers.

Today, Vargas, who took up a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, is a teacher in his alma mater while Babagay, graduating Cum Laude from a state university, is an account coordinator for one of the world’s largest logistics companies.

“Malasakit” and Excellence

For SAI Founder and Chief Motivation Officer Arcie G. Mallari, uplifting the lives of children and their families requires “malasakit” and excellence. “Poor performing students especially those who are from underprivileged communities must be empowered to become not only achievers in school but more importantly productive citizens of our nation,” said Mallari.

He explained that when education stakeholders work together, transformation in the lives of students happen. “Working with children, parents and partners for more than 10 years taught us the importance of having a common goal and of continuously innovating the way we implement our programs,” said Mallari.

75 Under 75

Last month, SAI launched the 75 Under 75, a first-of-its-kind search for the most academically-challenged public school students across the country, to help them become achievers. Mallari, who is also consultant to the Department of Education (DepEd), said this search for 75 students with grades under 75 come with the same Ground Zero Program and supplemental learning methodologies that make underachievers excellent in school.

Application is open until May 12. The full mechanics are at

With support from Department of Education, students will be selected by a board of judges composed of: Honorable Diosdado M. San Antonio, DepEd Undersecretary for Curriculum and Development; 2012 TOYM Awardee Ivan Henares, University of the Philippines Assistant Professor; and Reynaldo Antonio Laguda, Philippine Business for Social Progress President.

Furthermore, esteemed judges from the private sector include: Jose Antonio Banson, Monark Equipment Co. Chairman; Danielle Del Rosario, PHINMA Corporation Vice President, Chief Risk Officer, Director for Strategy; Darwin Flores, Smart Communications, Inc. Vice President for Community Partnerships; and Celia Guevara Lazaro, Transwealth Fleet and Parking Management Chief Executive Officer.

Completing the set of respected judges are: Media Personality Christine Bersola Babao, Mompreneur, Content Creator; Broadcast Journalist Julius Babao, ABS-CBN Commentator; and Platinum Recording Bossa Nova Sitti Navarro.

To take part in helping build a brighter future for the Filipino youth — visit

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