A Living Legacy

St Augustine School Girls Department Circa 1958

St Augustine School Girls Department Circa 1958

Founded in 1910, St Augustine School (SAS) started out as a mission school erected and run by the Belgian nuns and priests (CICM) who came to Tagudin, Ilocos Sur, Philippines to help spread the Good News. A short history of the school may be found at the SAS Ai WIKI. The last 103 years has seen the steady ascent of SAS as the premier private school of Ilocos Sur province. SAS Alumni work, live, set up private practice as doctors, engineers, certified public accountants, registered nurses, and do entrepreneurial commerce internationally.

Today’s global economy makes the job market keen and competitive. We have bright, promising and highly motivated kids in the community who come from very disadvantaged families and thus are financially unable to attend SAS high school.

It is so that these kids may get an opportunity to finish high school at SAS that our non-profit organization SAS Ai dedicates and commits its efforts. We solely rely on public financial support. To this end we humbly ask you to please generously donate to the scholarship fund. This is the only way we can fund these kids’ high school education.

We believe Education is Freedom. These children have known nothing but poverty, hunger, and even hopelessness throughout their lives. But they are the future. Investing in their high school education makes possible the ushering in of a living legacy – the next generation of teachers, scientists, doctors, engineers, civic leaders, clerics, fathers and mothers raising healthy families, and highly competitive overseas workers.

This holiday season, we ask you to please consider making your charitable contribution count. Invest in these kids. Help make their dreams come true. Give them an opportunity to finish high school. A $50 dollar tax deductible donation can help send a student for one month of schooling with the funding spread to cover tuition, books, school supplies, and school uniforms. You can even open a monthly allotment using your VISA, MASTER CARD, or DISCOVER card. Any amount you want to donate is truly appreciated and will help tremendously.

We wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


A Success Story

Jonel Leal

Jonel Leal (center) shows his certificate of recognition award, flanked by his Mom Mrs Monica Leal (left) and the Field Team Director, Mr Albert D Bunoan

The Field Team was at the Leal residence back in 2010 talking to Mrs Monica Leal and Jonel Leal about the scholarship program. It’s been a long, hot day and their trek to Ambalayat, where the Leals live, was long and tiring. The pre-qualifying process progressed slowly but they persevered and are they glad they did.

Today, Jonel Leal is an outstanding student at SAS high school going into his fourth and senior year.

During the first interview Jonel appeared too quiet, shy and even timid. The Field Team took a break to compare notes. Of the three Field Team reps, a couple gave Jonel an average rating. One remained high on Jonel. He observed that Mrs Monica Leal leaned heavily on her son, encouraging him to be more animated.

Jonel is a quiet young man who goes into deep thought when asked a question. He is not given to flashy exhibitions of flamboyance and open cockiness. He took his time answering questions. Sometimes going into a trance-like phase Jonel took his time giving cogent and well articulated answers.

When the Field Team politely asked Mrs Leal to leave them alone with her son, Jonel seemed to come alive. He appeared liberated, even emancipated. The Field Team left the Leal home late in the afternoon united in recommending him for the scholarship program. That was three years ago.

SAS Ai is so glad we gave Jonel an opportunity to attend high school with the scholarship program. He shows and typifies a SAS Ai scholar – in intelligence and in persistence.


Meet Mike and Karen Sobiecki, SAS Ai Sponsors

Karen and Mike Sobiecki

Karen and her husband Mike Sobiecki think highly of SAS Ai’s effort at helping bright kids who come from poor families get a good high school education, They sponsor SAS Ai scholars,

He led a crack platoon of skilled military men while serving in the US Army during the Vietnam War. She worked for a law firm as executive assistant. Finishing his stint in the US Army, Mr Michael Sobiecki worked for Chrysler Motors and rose to Regional Director of Executive Marketing and Sales.

After Mass last Sunday I asked him if he’d already retired. “Too young to retire,” he quipped with a big grin on his face.

Mrs Karen Sobiecki is the more thoughtful, demure one. She smiled brightly and told me, “Don’t believe everything he says,” she winked. “I think he should go back to work.”

I thought, “Hmmm… so Mr Mike is hanging out at home… by himself most of the time… hmm….” I called him up later in the week and asked if I could drop by to talk to him about something.

He said, “Yeah sure. Come on by and I will have a cold one ready for you.”

Mr Mike and I talked about SAS Alumni International’s mission of helping bright kids who come from poor families get a good high school education at SAS thru financial aid. I explained to him what “poor” meant, and what “bright” meant: A gross annual family income of $1167 USD or less and a GPA of 85% and above .

Mr Sobiecki looked absorbed and very interested; he said nothing and remained motionless. I thought I had bored him stiff with my presentation.

Breaking the silence he said, “Yes, I recall having to stay overnight in Olongapo City in the Philippines during the ‘Nam war. I slept in a hut but the folks were super-hospitable. Did you know they offered for me to sleep on the only cot bed in the house?”

“That’s Filipino hospitality for you,” I proudly beamed.

“I’ll never forget that gesture of kindness,” he continued. “In the morning they prepared for me some eggs, garlic rice, and marinated fish. That fish was sure bony! Hot dang, but it was good! How could they eat that kind of fish, bones and all.” The smile on his face registered pleasant memories.

“They don’t chew it,” I gave my smarty pants reply.

After a couple of cold ones, I stood up to leave. “Nice talking to you buddy,” he said shaking my hand. “Drop in anytime. Hey – see ya in Church Sunday!”

As I cleared the foyer and out the front door, I heard him following me close by. Halfway down the walkway I heard him say, “How much does it cost to sponsor a bright student? I think Karen and I just might sponsor a bright scholar!”

The rest is history. Mr and Mrs Michael Sobiecki are proud sponsors of SAS Ai scholars. They have never regretted their decision. We thank them from the bottom of our hearts for their generosity and support. We need more folks like the Sobiecki’s.

Imagine. . .

Scholars at the store

Imagine if these bright kids never attended high school just because their families are too poor to send them to high school… what kind of future would they have?

What does the future hold for these bright kids who come from poor families?

They want so much to attend high school and to finish it – yet can only dream about it.

They own academic skills, an aptitude to learn, and a burning want to rise above the clutches of poverty that’s pinned them down all their life.

We see these kids – they are all around us – and we can help them. Can you imagine yourself doing nothing to help them become more hopeful by helping them get a good high school education? Can you imagine yourself being unmoved by their plight when all it takes is for you to give a little donation to the scholarship fund – and SAS Ai does the rest handling your investment?

School year 2013 starts in a month or two. Now is the time to give them a hand. Now is the time to share your blessings with these bright kids so they can attend high school and become hopeful again. Now is the time to send in your donation to the scholarship fund. Imagine… you are investing in the future!

Eden Dungan, Field Team Volunteer

Eden Dungan

Eden Dungan’s first meeting with SAS Ai scholars

Meet Eden Dungan, SAS Ai Field Team volunteer. She, along with six other professionals, make up the Field Team. We take great pride in the work of our Field Team members. Collectively they are the face of SAS Ai on the school campus. Their work encompasses looking after our scholars’ needs and welfare. More importantly, the Field Team holds the scholars accountable for their class attendance, school work and grades, personal behavior on and off the school campus. The Field Team processes applications for financial aid.

Eden firmly believes good education is important to one’s future and success. In her civil service work for the municipal government of Sudipen, La Union, she meets many young people disadvantaged by barely knowing how to read and write. Eden knows their predicament and concludes out loud, “No wonder they cannot compete even for the most menial jobs.”

Her wish to help the young, gifted kids in our assistance program, prompted her to join our Field Team. A most personable and gifted person, friendly and affable, Eden brings much to our program.

Planned moves

Life's challenges illustrated by a game of chess

Life’s challenges illustrated by a game of chess

A chess aficionado, though not a great player himself, Condrado watched as the two older gentlemen from Verona played an intense cat and mouse game. They played for honor, the only wager – the bragging rights.

The park burst alive with people playing chess. Young ones, middle-aged ones, teenagers and the elderly. These two men however drew the biggest crowd. Their game quality surpassed all the others.

Condrado saw one of the players move a piece back to where it originally sat. “A wasted move for sure,” he thought inwardly.

Then it happened. The piece retreated for a kill. Condrado reevaluated his first assessment. The planned move drew the opponent to close and decide between two possible deadly scenarios. He took one of the possible scenarios. Like saying “Pick your poison,” – the man with the planned move went on to win the match.

The Definition of Poor


A kitchen in its most basic configuration

Monsoon season just hit. It’s been raining day and night for about three days now. No let up.

The family’s been preparing food in this makeshift kitchen. No sidewalls. Not even a decent roof. The fire in the stove is hard to keep ablaze. It flickers with every gust of rain-soaked wind blowing by. But, this is what this family can afford.

Money is hard to come by. This family’s annual gross income from all sources is less than P50,000 Philippine pesos…. a year’s income. Their main house is a one room enclosure made of hollow blocks with mud floors. They sleep on buri mats woven from dried palm fronds. No running water. No electricity. Just a kerosene lantern.

Both husband and wife farm an acre of land for a rich person who lives in town. The sweet potatoes turned out okay but the corn crop was not very good this year. There wasn’t much to divide between owner and  tenant farmer. This means this family’s going to have to make some adjustments to their meals, say, just eat two meals a day – if that.

The downpour turns the rice fields into ponds. Frogs, catfish, tilapia and mudfish abound and this is good for the family. It adds to the staple. The father is very entrepreneurial. He has to for him and his family to survive. He catches frogs and whatever fish swims into his traps and sells the ones they cannot eat in the public market. Muscular frogs and red-eyed mudfish can fetch a handsome price.

For the husband and wife, it’s once again time to be preparing the rice seedling plots. Life goes on for this family.

They have one child – a daughter who has shown promise in her earlier school work. This young girl shows ambition. A quick learner she maintained good grades in elementary school. She applied for scholarship assistance from SAS Ai, Inc. and was accepted. She is now a junior in high school. Next year, she will graduate from SAS high school. It will be the realization of her dream.

SAS Ai, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) public charity organization with a mission to help bright and promising students who come from poor families get a good high school education through sponsored scholarships. Help us send these underprivileged kids to SAS high school. Donate to the scholarship fund.