UPLB top grad says journey began from Google search

LOS BAÑOS, LAGUNA (PIA) – What started as a Google search for the ‘Top 10 courses in the Philippines’ led Jenel Justo to the top, finishing as valedictorian of class 2023 of the University of the Philippines-Los Baños (UPLB) on Saturday.

“Sinearch ko sa Google ‘yung Top 10 most promising occupations at majority po ay Computer Science-related, kaya nandito po ako ngayon,” Justo, a native of Calamba City, Laguna, recalled when he enrolled in BS Computer Science.

He was one of the 23 summa cum laude graduates (highest academic distinction with a general weighted average of at least 1.20) out of the 1,932 Iskolar ng Bayan who completed their degrees that included 323 magna cum laude and 559 cum laude.

“To finish as summa cum Laude feels surreal. Honestly, hindi pa rin nagsi-sink in sa akin na I’m graduating this year and with such distinction. Sobrang supportive po ng family nung nalaman nila ‘yung balita. Actually sinend po nila sa lahat ng GC (group chat) namin nung nangyari ‘yun,” Justo said.

In 2022, job search platform, Jobstreet, listed Computer Science as one of the most difficult degrees to finish in the Philippines due to its precise and meticulous nature.

Justo said the road to the coveted UP Sablay (a graduation regalia in a form of sash) was not an easy task.

“Everyone in this gymnasium has at least one moment in their lives where they doubted whether they were worthy and capable. And the thing is, dreams turn into expectations…fast. And with expectations come comparisons,” he said in his valedictory speech.

A total of 1,932 students graduated during the 51st Commencement Exercises of the University of the Philippines – Los Baños. 925 students graduated with honors – 559 cum laude, 343 magna cum laude and 23 summa cum laude, respectively. (PB,MBLito/PIA-4A)

Despite graduating at the top of his class, Justo felt he was like the other students who just finished their journey in higher education.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic that hit in 2020, Justo went full cycle, transitioning from classroom learning to online classes and back.

“The transition was very difficult, since sanay po ako na after class ay may kasama ako after the exam. Hindi ko po kasama ‘yung support system ko. So it felt like I did not live my college life as much as I wanted to. [Pero] kahit online, we found ways to communicate with my friends,” he said.

After graduation, Justo said he will rest for a while then pursue a job in the industry. “As an Iskolar ng Bayan I think it’s my responsibility to give back, especially to the people who put me in this place.”

He advised students who wish to excel in their studies to be less harsh on themselves. “We also need to focus on what we did right, rather than on what we did wrong in the past.” (PB)

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