CCDC supports students with free accommodations to students from low income families. The number is determined by the number of applicants provided that they agree to help and assist in various tasks in the school campus based on their skills and talents (e.g. carpentry and sports).
Such is the case of Brent Oyamin Fermin.
Brent Oyamin Fermin is now a graduating student of the BS Criminology program at age 27; he is set to graduate in June 2023. He is a native of Tuplac, Lubo, Kibungan, Benguet. He has become a familiar face among CCDC employees and students as he continues to serve as one of the student assistants working the general services department. He assists various offices in infrastructure and cleanliness-related work.
Along the corridor, where Brent is actively assisting students in his smart internship uniform, Ronalyn Aludos, the scholarship coordinator, greets Brent with a smile of pride. Aludos recalls, “When I was then assigned at the Office of the President, I recall Brent, with his untrimmed hair, wearing slippers, coming into the office one January afternoon in 2020, asking to talk to the school president. My instinct was to ask for his name and his reason for wanting to talk to the president. He answered with his name, and he was obviously nervous, but with a sound of desperation, saying he is a freshman and said that he would like to ask for help”.
While waiting for the president, Ms. Ronalyn asked him to take a seat to interview him. It was the last day to submit needed requirements like taking the special final examination. Brent started explaining that he was unable to pay the required fees to take the final examination on time and was asking for some consideration since he was only working for his uncle during the weekends.
President Tagle then relates, Brent was obviously nervous, but sounded determined and sincere in his intentions to finish school. Brent also shared that he was staying in his uncle’s house but could not afford the rent, and he was only working during the weekends and his meager earnings was only sufficient to cover his food, but not much of his school fees. She then introduced the school’s students assistants’ program which has been going on for 30 years and some other programs to support poor but deserving students like free accommodations and other services. He looked interested. Seeing his sincerity, she recalled asking if he would be given a chance to take his special final exam, was he ready to take it all in one afternoon? He said he was ready. She then said that after he took all his examinations, he could come back to the office to see Ms. Ronalyn assisted him in his application as a student assistant and other student support services.
The CCDC student assistants’ program capitalizes on diligence and perseverance, cultural traits common among Cordillerans. CCDC employs interested students who are willing to balance work and school while augmenting school fees. Student assistants are assigned in various offices and departments, but those who are willing to be assigned at the general services department are usually males with basic skills in carpentry, plumbing are given accommodation privileges inside the school campus. CCDC records the success of its program based on the high completion rate of its working students, and positive work feedback of their initial employers.
Brent eventually took all his examinations in one afternoon and passed his subjects. His teachers commended him saying that Brent had perfect attendance during the previous semester, and had a good academic performance. One teacher took notice of Brent as having turned in a handwritten assignment rather than an encoded output, saying that he could not afford to pay for computer rental. The teacher since then has been considerate and has observed Brent’s dedication to finish school.
In that same afternoon, Brent was able to talk to the head of the general services and the manager of the Admirals Farm Park, the school’s outdoor facility, where he will be assigned. The very next day, Brent officially became one of the hundreds of the school’s student assistants through the years.
Given his age, Brent showed maturity in the conduct of his work. His experiences instilled in him the commitment and dedication to do his best with minimal supervision. After finishing elementary school, he stopped school for one year before enrolling once again in high school. Due to financial difficulties, he had to help his parents in the farm and doing construction work, if only to help put food on the table and to help his younger siblings finish their elementary school years. Brent continued for another two years in high school, in St. Theresita’s High School, but eventually had to stop due to some failing grades. It was difficult not to comply with requirements due to financial problems and other-related problems. Brent began working once again from construction to farming, any job was always a blessing. Until Brent’s passion to finish school was en-kindled by the opportunity brought on by the Balik Paaralan Out of School Adults. Brent enrolled and got his certificate to finish Grade 10 after one year. He went back to work for another year, with the hope that he could save some money to help him finish Senior High School, which he eventually did and graduated under the Technical-Vocational Strand in 2019 at GBDAIS in Balakbak, Kapangan.
Asking Brent about his academic performance during his college years, he smiled. The first semester was very difficult. He was often hungry and tired. He walked 30 minutes to school and another 30 minutes to go home to his uncle’s house. He also had difficulty submitting requirements since he did not know much about using the computer, and felt shy working in groups.
During the lockdowns, Brent, who has not been accustomed to using cellphones, let alone computers and social media, had a difficult time during the pandemic. For almost two whole school years, when the heavy lockdown due to the pandemic was in place, Brent opted to stay with another student assistant, Edward, inside the school premises, at Admirals Farm Park, Lamtang, Puguis, La Trinidad. Brent felt he was better off in Lamtang, than going home to Kibungan. He continued his studies during the pandemic under the remote teaching and learning mode. He had to learn how to use the computer, use the internet and cellphone to communicate, and engage in online discussions with his teachers and classmates. This is one factor that led to him failing some of his academic subjects. Whatever he earned as a working student, his superiors assisted him to purchase his personal needs, and taught him to manage his finances. Brent was motivated to keep going and submit requirements, one at a time, with the constant encouragement of his superiors and of school employees who guided him during the lockdown, who ensured his health and well-being during those difficult times, his teachers who gave extra hours explaining the lessons which he could not comprehend by himself during self-study time.
As flexible learning and face-to-face classes gradually resumed, Brent also found interest in joining other school student organizations, he is now a member of the Gameng di Cordillera, a performing cultural dance group, and confidently performs in front of crowds, something he had not experienced during his younger years, as he was focused on working immediately after school.
When asked about best decisions he has made in his life, Brent looks back during the end of the first semester of the School Year 2019-2020, due to financial difficulties, he was unable to pay his fees, and continued working for the entire December-January holiday season. Until one day in January, as the enrollment for the second semester was going on, he met a classmate, who was a working student, assigned as a CCDC student security marshal. They talked about their difficulties, Brent shared his situation and his friend advised him, go to the President’s Office. And that one afternoon, he did and he saw hope that his longtime prayer and dream to graduate and find a stable job to secure him and his family will come true.