Jayson Tasarra shares the life he lived, the hardships he went through to be able to attain a college degree.
As his name was called, Jayson Tasarra- cum laude, the last of the thirteen scholars who graduated with honor walked confidently upstage to receive his certificate and medal from volunteers of Tzu Chi Foundation- the NGO which supported his college education.
Behind Jayson, was his mother Salvacion who was proud to have the honor of placing the medal on Jayson.
A Mother’s Sacrifice
Salvacion ‘Salve’ Tasarra came to Manila after separating with her husband, she had been a factory worker, a canteen staff, and even had a job in a printing press. Now, at 62 years old, she still goes to work at a factory of office supplies where she has to stand all day assembling materials.
Her earning is not enough to sustain their daily existence since she has another child who is suffering from undifferentiated schizophrenia.
She saw how Jayson, who wanted to be a lawyer ever since he was little, did not give up on his dreams. Jayson had to stop his schooling a few times due to financial difficulties, but he was resourceful enough to look for opportunities for him to enroll in school with the hope that he will attain a degree someday.
“I said [to him], “As long as I can work, I will so you could finish [school] Jayson.” she said tearfully.
A Son’s Dream
Jayson, the youngest of four, grew up with big dreams. He was determined to be a lawyer ever since he was little, even when his peers would often say he couldn’t. He was firm in his belief that someday he will become a lawyer and relieve his family from poverty.
But things didn’t go exactly as planned for Jayson. In May 2014, during his second year in college, Jayson and his family was forced to live in the streets. He had to stop school altogether, quit his scholarship in Tzu Chi Foundation prematurely, and find work to get him and his mom a home.
“I was very sad that time because it was hard to let go of my dreams; because my dreams aren’t just for myself.”
Together with his mother, they had a routine in the streets. They found a spot to sleep just outside the government building of their city, learned how to take quick baths in public rest rooms, and mingle with homeless people like themselves.
He saw how his mother cried, he put up a brave front for the sake of his mother and his siblings. “I don’t want them to my weakness because I am their strength. They have to believe that I am strong.”
They lived on the streets for five months. Jayson felt being looked down by others, but his dreams never wavered. “What remained was my dream to go on, that we will never be in this situation again. That I have to do something to get us out of this situation.”
And so he did. In August of the same year, Jayson and Salve found a home they could rent. Jayson got a job in a fast food chain as a store marketing assistant and he wished that he could go back to school again. But after quitting two semesters in two different schools because of financial problems, he started to doubt if he would ever graduate and become a lawyer.
“At that time, I said, ‘Maybe I wouldn’t be able to study again. My dreams would just be for my family but not for myself.”
He worked in different food outlets, providing for his family and saving up for a raining day, but when he was able to get a better pay from a doughnut chain, he applied for a scholarship in Jose Rizal University where he got accepted as a student assistant. But the scholarship and the pay were not enough. Left without a job and depending on his mother’s meager income again, he was at the risk of quitting school again.
“I went back to Tzu Chi because I know they will help me again.” he said.
Tzu Chi scholarship not only helped finance Jayson’s studies, it also helped in their expenses. “Ever since I knew Tzu Chi, it opened the opportunity for me to make my dreams come true”
Salve was also grateful for the foundation for helping her son graduate. “I am thankful to Tzu Chi because without Tzu Chi’s [help], I wouldn’t be able to let my son finish school.”
In April 2019, after four colleges and a string of jobs, Jayson finally finished his degree in Legal Management with flying colors. Right now, Jayson still has a long way to achieve his dream of becoming a lawyer. He plans to practice with his degree for the time being until he can save enough money to pursue his studies in law. But most of all, Jayson wants to give his mother a better life that she no longer has to toll long hours in a factory.
Jayson’s journey doesn’t end in his graduation, since he believe in Master Cheng Yen teaching on having to start somewhere even if those are tiny steps.