For the 166 graduates, the long awaited Graduation Day 2015 had finally come! “When I first calculated this number I freaked out!”, says Geetika Agarwal, who was in charge of organizing the Graduation ceremony. “But when I saw all the students on dress rehearsal day, I knew it was all worth it.”
by Vittoria O and Miin Hwang
Along with the graduates, mentors and friends waited impatiently for the ceremony to begin. Excitement was in the air and emotions were running high! In the past year, Aidha’s students had dedicated every free minute to the completion of their business plans. Long hours of hard work had finally paid off: today, it was their time to shine. Sharply dressed and with big smiles on their faces, they filled the auditorium with excited chatter and laughter.
Among the sea of orange ties, three graduates waited even more anxiously. For Marilyn Apayao, Puji Hastutik, and Avegel Inosanto, our top three finalists in the Business Plan Finals, waiting to hear who won the top prize was a nerve-wracking experience!
Life has posed many challenges to these three brave and determined women. “As the breadwinner of my family, I had to give up my dream to study”, says Marilyn. But somewhere deep inside, she continued to hold on to that dream. When opportunity knocked at her door, she was ready to take up the challenge. At first, it was not easy to get out of her comfort zone. “I used to be shy and insecure when talking to highly educated people”, she recalls. “But Aidha helped me to discover a new way of thinking.”
Avegel’s initial years in Singapore were anything but easy. But dealing with professional and personal struggles only made her stronger. The award makes her feel confident, but the prize is not everything to her: “I’m so happy, of course. But winning is just a bonus for me. What makes me happier is looking at the overwhelming happiness of the people around me. Seeing how proud my mentors are of my achievement gives me even more motivation.”
Likewise, Puji points out the crucial role her tutors played in her success. “My mentor said I looked confident, even though I was shaking inside”, she says with a smile. “At some point I told myself: if everyone thinks I can do it, then it must be true.” Her award is standing proof that her business plan was a worthy one and that she was capable of making everyone proud. “This is not just a story, it’s the reality”, she adds, almost in disbelief.
Most graduates say that Aidha has provided them with the skills and confidence to counter potential obstacles on their way. On Graduation Day, it was hard to remember how shy and insecure they were when they first joined. One after the other, they walked proudly across the stage to collect their well-earned certificates.Pride in their eyes. This is a turning point in their lives and a moment they will never forget.
The day was not just for the graduates though. Tutors and mentors celebrated successes of their own. Marina Chiericato, who mentored one of the business plan winners, remarked that “seeing the girls change, become more confident and more positive with regards to their future is a great personal satisfaction.” Like most of the mentors present, Marina will continue to guide as many students as possible, because Aidha’s classroom is the ideal place for students to gain confidence and to rediscover their potential. “No need to win the first prize”, she adds, “Winning is going back home, starting the business and making a good living out of it.”
Additionally, it was not just the students who experienced an intensive learning process. “Working for Aidha has improved my multi-tasking skills and it has made me a better decision-maker”, Student Affairs Manager Geetika says. “The students are beautiful. They are my role models and someday I hope to gain the patience and resilience they have”.
Even though the day was about graduation, everyone in the room knew that the accomplishments go far beyond a degree. “We have managed to train 166 women to stand on their own feet”, Geetika explains “They will train 166 families and make the world a better place.” Despite these successes, the will to reach even higher and do even better is tangible. Aidha graduates are not done achieving their full potential. During long nights, when most of us had long gone to bed, these graduates sat in front of their business plans and didn’t give up. Hard work and passion, mutual support, building friendships, courage and hope: these are the ingredients to succeed in the world, and Aidha students know that today. One could not help but soak in the atmosphere, share in the overwhelming happiness and look forward to what these amazing women will do in the future.