Once upon a time... Summa Cum Laude

It has been fifteen years since I completed nursing school. I culminated my student days as a Summa Cum Laude at Father Saturnino Urios University in the Philippines. It was a rare academic feat, but I managed to excel inspite of the difficulties I had back then. As I reminisce how it has been, I would like to point out the learnings I had through the years, and this will be the focus of this blogpost.

Summa Cum Laude is the highest Latin honor one could get in the university. It does not just mean being the class valedictorian with the highest grade in the batch, but it means possessing a grade considered one of the highest throughout the school's history. In the Philippines, there are very few with Summa Cum Laude honors, and it is extremely rare in Nursing. Yes, I did that.

Well, it was unexpected. I was actually expecting at least Cum Laude, the third highest Latin honor. However, some rules were changed, making it less difficult to get Cum Laude such that I was literally catapulted upwards to being a Summa Cum Laude. Nonetheless, I got enough attention since I often get the chance to deliver speeches infront of thousands of people. However, being a Summa Cum Laude was a double-edged sword. 

The expectations were extremely unrealistic for me to excel even better in my nursing licensure examination. That is to compete with all nursing graduates throughout the country. I was expected to top the exam among 88,000+ exam takers that year. The test results are published in newspapers and in the internet every time. Hence, everyone interested would literally know if I made it to the list of examinees with highest scores, and the score I obtained in the two-consecutive-day, 500-item licensure exam covering all nursing subjects. Dealing with the anxiety prior the exam was not an easy task.

So now, what does it mean for me to have been a Summa Cum Laude once upon a time, fifteen years ago? To be honest, almost nil. 😄 I will elaborate here why.

It never guarantees financial success.

This is a Filipino myth. One does not get rich just by being a Summa Cum Laude. This is something I can personally attest. I still struggle financially, but I could safely say that I feel safe and satisfied today. I no longer worry where to find means for what to eat the next days. Financial education is not something students learn in school, but in life. Fortunately, I was given the chance to be independent and learn a lot about money and how one could use money to one's advantage, or the opposite how it could result to negative consequences. All of these did not come naturally by being a Summa Cum Laude.

It never reflects how I am as a nurse.

This is a misconception. I am not far better than any nurse in the Philippines. Nursing is a more of experienced-based profession. One becomes better with more, varied clinical experiences accumulated through time. Being a Summa Cum Laude may mean that I am more theoretic than experienced. I can agree to that, but I can not say that I am one of the best in nursing theory. Perhaps among those Filipino nurses of the same age, but not in general. However, I may say that I am confident enough in terms of how I apply nursing knowledge in practice. I know why, and day-by-day I am learning continuously how. 

It does not indicate that I am an exception.

It is easy to believe that I would be an exception. I had more alternatives than any nursing graduate at that time, but there is really nothing special after graduation. The most popular social media during that time was Friendster, and that achievement did not really get so much attention (fortunately!) compared to someone having that honor today in the Philippines. However, to be honest, I actually thought I was an exception during that time. I felt and believed I was privileged. That was a major mistake I think.

Well, this blogpost may sound pessimistic. It is but it tends to be more practical and realistic. However, I wanted to remember that achievement in an another perspective - from my family's perspective, specifically that of my parents. It was my gift to them, because I would not overcome the hurdles towards the "finish line" without their sacrifices and support. It was them who motivated me to push myself. I was not forced by them to excel though. I was inspired by them to have a goal.

That goal was finishing nursing school. I am forever thankful that they never gave up on me. I acknowledge though that it was primarily due to my effort that I ended up being a Summa Cum Laude. However, being literally on top felt not being alone being around with them. The journey towards the top was hard, but never alone. This the reason why after I graduated nursing school I wanted to emphasize my full name with emphasis of my second, middle and last names. I am Paul Delfin Reyes Jamero because being a Summa Cum Laude was a collective effort. I am simply Paul but I bear the names of many generations, and I share that feat with them all.


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