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CamSur provideS P1.9-M: Student gets admission to 5 universities

By Charen Vera

What do you like to be when you grow up? Countless times we were asked this question, and countless times we fumbled, unsure of the answer, and many are the times our answers change. But this isn’t how it was for the 21-year-old achiever of Barangay San Isidro, Pili, Jerome Hade Bustarga.

Jerome is a consistent honor student since his elementary days and, ever since he was a child, the dream to become an astronaut has been clear and definite for him. At such a young age, he’s been curious of the things around him, of how things work, and of how things began and end. Science has created another world full of possibilities for him, where he can truly express himself. “If for other kids their idol and superheroes are Superman, mine was Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, and Marie Curie. They were my idols, my superheroes,” recalled Jerome.

However, after being made fun of and bullied for having a dream deemed “unrealistic”, Jerome forced himself to dream another dream, only to end up lost and unsure.

After completing his junior high school in Ateneo De Naga University, Jerome needed to stop for two years due to his family’s financial incapacity. His parents struggled to make ends meet and he decided to stop to make way for his brother in college. As an achiever and someone very studious, those two years of being out-of-school was a real struggle for Jerome. He considered those years his lowest time. For two years, he struggled feeling rejected and forsaken, his dream slowly becoming a blur at the back of his mind.

In 2019, just when things started to get too much for him, the Philippine Space Act was signed into law on August 8, 2019, giving birth to the Philippine Space Agency. This news rekindled the fire of passion within him that he thought was long gone.

The establishment of the Philippine Space Agency was a turning point for Jerome. It became a way for him to motivate himself and bring back the curiosity in him.

With the unwavering love of his family, Jerome picked himself up. He started making plans of going back to school. He pursued Science and Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) academic strand in senior high school in Arellano University – Jose Abad Santos where he graduated top of his class. Jerome regained his confidence and studied more. It was during these times that he took the courage and started applying to US colleges.

Despite his bravery, Jerome was still plagued with self-doubt and reservations. This only got worse when January 2022 came and college decisions began arriving. He was overwhelmed with worry and defeat after receiving rejection letters from the many colleges he applied to. But when February came, he received his first acceptance letter, followed by another, and another.

Jerome was accepted to five universities in the United States of America, namely the Clarkson University in New York, Creighton University in Nebraska, Bowling Green State University in Ohio, University of Memphis in Tennessee, and Carthage College in Wisconsin.

Jerome decided to pursue his American Dream in Creighton University, where he will take Engineering Physics 3+2 Dual Degree Program. He was offered a scholarship, however, it doesn’t cover his entire tuition fee, and the living expenses are too expensive for his family.

The dream Jerome thought was finally within his reach remained elusive. It was then that he decided to post his achievements in social media. His story gained traction and was featured in national news. He started fundraising for his studies and requested for support from other people, but all these still came short. Until one day, Jerome received a most unexpected phone call telling him that the Provincial Government of Camarines Sur, under the new and visionary leadership of Governor Luigi Villafuerte, is more than willing to help him achieve his dreams.

“During that time when Governor Luigi reached out to me, I was about to lose hope because it’s been months, it’s already July and fall semester was about to come,” shared Jerome. “I really needed help for this and I was really happy because someone heard and listened to my story,” he continued.

Priding itself with various programs for the education sector and the youth, the Provincial Government of Camarines Sur provided Jerome with scholarship. The province will shoulder the remaining balance of the total cost of his studies in the US in the amount of 34,714 US dollars or 1.9 million Philippine peso.

“I am really happy and beyond thankful for this scholarship. I actually told myself that maybe, this is the answer to my prayers and that, maybe, God sent Governor Luigi my way to help me realize my lifelong dream,” reflected Jerome.

Countless are the times we doubt ourselves and countless are the times that our deepest dreams begin to slip away. Yet, just as the story of Jerome goes, reaching our dreams might be difficult and at times almost impossible, but with our courage and passion, with the love of our families and friends, and with the staunch support and commitment from our government, we realize that these dreams are not far away and unreachable after all.

Jerome will leave for US on August 2022 as he works towards his dreams of becoming an astronaut, and the Provincial Government will be behind him every step of the way as he continues to bring pride to our province.

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