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It takes an entire village to raise a child.

This truism was succinctly elucidated by educator Dr. Teresa Arquero- Wingco in a speech she delivered at PRUSA’s (Piddig Rooseveltians in the USA) reunion-dinner held on July 16, 2016 in the Pauley ballroom of the University of California-Berkeley in California.

Wingco, who is the principal of the Roosevelt High School (RHS) in Piddig, Ilocos Norte, travelled all the way from the Philippines to Berkeley to speak at the event organized by PRUSA headed by outgoing President Mildred Arquero-Boehner.

Wingco’s speech is about the story of Jethro Dave Martin, a poor child whose mother wanted him to finish at least high school despite the fact that her family was wallowing in rank poverty.

A summary of Wingco’s story about Jethro follows:

The boy and his mother were originally from a depressed village in Cagayan Province. Jethro grew up without a father, and he and his mother did odd jobs so they had food to eat. Later, Jethro and his mother were brought to Barangay Estancia, Piddig by a man who “would become his stepfather. The man was hard-working, but he was an alcoholic.”

The boy was able to finish Grade VI in the elementary school in the village despite his many absences caused by his helping his stepfather in doing farm work.

Five years ago, his mother “took a big leap of faith” by enrolling him in RHS located in the town center. Because he had no money for tricycle fare, Jethro would hike five kilometers to reach RHS and the same distance to go home. Upon reaching home, he would go to a nearby mountain to gather firewood which he would sell to his neighbors so he had money to buy the school supplies he needed.

While in school, he did not have money for food and had only lollipops for lunch. He wore “tattered, hand-me-down shoes which often were so tight” that it caused blisters in his feet.

The boy’s struggle – one of seeming helplessness and hopelessness — took a different turn when a teacher thought that “maybe he wanted to have more than just lollipops for lunch” and since then had invited him to share her home-cooked food. A school administrator noticed one morning that “the boy was limping in his tattered shoes and bought him a new pair of shoes.”

Another teacher noted the boy’s shyness and advised him to strive harder. Still another teacher walked “the extra mile” and solicited a scholarship grant for Jethro to ease his family’s financial burden. A lady PRUSA member heeded the call for help and paid the scholarship for Jethro “whom she never met or knew.”

With the outpouring of assistance to him, the boy seized the opportunity “to better himself and his future. The once shy boy became the president of the Supreme Student Council.” Later, “he brought honors not only for himself but also for the school by winning medals in provincial competitions.”

In March this year, Jethro finished junior high school as valedictorian. When he delivered his valedictory address, everybody in the audience who knew his story was shedding tears. He gave profuse thanks to all those who had helped him along the way.

In concluding her speech, Principal Wingco said the boy’s life took a turn for the better “because of the collective efforts by the teachers, administrators, benefactors, parents and other nameless people who support and continue to support to keep alive the legacy of the founding fathers of Roosevelt High School.

It was a collective effort to love and inspire the youth to become better versions of themselves…”

She added, “It is often said that it takes an entire village to raise a child, and this is never more true than the case of Jethro Dave Martin.”

As an alumnus of RHS, I can relate to Jethro’s story. I, too, was a poor boy who had to walk six kilometers every day to reach RHS and another six kilometers to go home.

I note, though, that Jethro’s struggle was much, much harder than what I had gone through, and for his patience and tenacity, I salute him.

Yes, every poor kid has a chance to have at least high school education if he/she attends a caring school like RHS, my alma meter.