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A Thousand Steps Closer to My Dream: My Kumon Journey

*This was Trassandra Jewelle Ipapo’s speech during the 2019 Advanced Students’ Forum last November 10, 2019 at the Manila Marriott Hotel, Pasay City.

Never in my Kumon journey did I imagine that I would be where I am right now. Speaking in events is a great privilege since I saw myself as nothing more than just another happy kid sitting at the back amongst the thousands of other students taking up the Kumon Program all over the country. I used to think that only the most outstanding students who completed the program so quickly and at such young ages would have this opportunity to be in front of all of you. I am none of those. It took me a lot of years, and even tears, to accomplish the program. However, I realized that those hardships and setbacks were what made my journey all the more memorable.

Beginning the Kumon Journey

One day, and if I’m not mistaken, exactly 10 years ago, my mom asked me if I wanted to either get a tutor or enroll in the Kumon Program to improve how I was doing in school. Because Kumon was completely unknown to me, I asked her what it was, but all she really said was that, compared to having to go to a tutor every day, I would only have to go to Kumon twice a week. I bet any six-year-old would choose Kumon after knowing that. The next thing I knew was that I was about to take my Diagnostic Test with no idea how much my life would change after that day.

Just like any child trying something new, I looked forward to my sessions in the Center. I enjoyed the colorful worksheets, the cool magnetic board, and the ease of simply writing down numbers on a piece of paper. I got great scores, and during those times, Kumon seemed more like a pastime instead of work. I enjoyed Kumon.

However, this feeling didn’t last long. When I reached the more difficult levels, I started to dread the idea of going to the Center and answering worksheets at home.  It came to the point that I would hide my worksheets under the mattress, inside my pillowcase, between books, or just about anywhere my parents couldn’t find them so that I wouldn’t have to answer them. As a result, a good number of the worksheets I submitted ended up ripped or wet with tears.

Braving the Challenges

I ended up transferring schools from Bulacan all the way to Katipunan in Quezon City. Because of this, my family and I also moved to a place closer to my new school. This created a greater distance between the Center and me, which was in Valenzuela. This also meant that I had to endure the lengthy travel times through the dreadfully heavy traffic of Metro Manila every time I had to go to the Center.

For most of my Kumon journey, I was doing ballet. This included taking classes, attending competitions, and performing in recitals. I would also miss out on some Kumon sessions as I often traveled to other countries for competitions. There were times that I brought my worksheets with me backstage, and when people saw me answering them, they kept asking me, “You already have school, so why still take Kumon? Aren’t you tired with everything?” In fact, Kumon added to my already growing list of responsibilities, took up much of my time, and usually left me exhausted on most days. 

All of these, combined with my schoolwork, made me want to quit the program numerous times. I thought to myself, “My friends and a lot of the other kids weren’t doing Kumon, so why should I?” However, my parents, relatives, and teachers motivated and helped me persist and push myself even further. At first, I never understood why they wanted me to complete; but looking back now, I realized that Kumon gave me the skills I needed to overcome the challenges I faced. I wasn’t able to see and understand this until the end of the program. Constantly asking why I was taking up Kumon was not a question I needed to ask because the program itself was truly the answer to so much more.

Discovering My Fullest Potential

Why was I doing well in school? Because of Kumon, I was able to grasp concepts early on, so I already understood them by the time lessons came up in classes. I’m considered one of the youngest, if not the youngest, people in my batch, having just turned 17 and already in my freshman year in college. To add to this, my previous schools were highly competitive. So I could catch up, get honors and awards, and even help my classmates, all because of Kumon.

Aside from helping me in school, Kumon also opened up many new opportunities for me. I believe a huge part of the reason I passed the Ateneo Senior High School Placement Exam (ASHAPE) and the UP College Admission Test (UPCAT), and the Ateneo College Entrance Test (ACET) for college was my Kumon education. With constant practice and precision, the environment while taking the tests was somewhat familiar to me. This led me to get the courses that I wanted, including full scholarships and allowance for my senior high school and college stay in Ateneo. All these would not have been possible had I not taken the Kumon program.

Aside from academics, Kumon was also the answer to my growth as a person in values and skills. I had many challenges in my journey. So why didn’t I give up? With the seemingly never-ending corrections, Kumon taught me to keep on trying constantly. Why was I confident and independent? Kumon made me understand the lessons on my own, so I didn’t have to rely on my parents for help. Why did I not crack under the pressure of my many responsibilities? With my Kumon training on time management and dedication, I handled everything I needed to accomplish.

All these great things and hardships that came out from my journey solidified my dream of completing the Kumon program. Before Kumon, I was just a normal kid. But because of Kumon, not only was I able to become the best version of myself, but I pushed myself to the limits of who I’m meant to be. So I guess I’m not “just normal” but, instead, one of the thousands who grew to be exceptional because of Kumon. Without this program, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I’m just 17, in my first year of college, and I haven’t reached my dream of owning a technology company just yet, but I believe Kumon has brought me a thousand steps closer to it.

Going beyond

I hope you are all proud of yourselves—in the same way that I am—for what you have accomplished. Though I am certain we all have different stories to tell, I can speak for everyone in saying that reaching this point was no easy task. I have to give it to each of you for persevering past your own obstacles and barriers to getting to this point. Though your futures may be brighter than ever, the road ahead is only bound to be filled with even more challenges to hurdle over, and all I really wish to advise is you to keep moving forward because it’s those same challenges that will mold you into better versions of yourselves. 

Your ‘Why’s may not be the clearest right now, and that’s okay. I’ve been there, too. I can guarantee that the answer to those may be within reach, and it’s only a matter of time before you truly appreciate Kumon for what it is and what it gives. This program is forming all of you in ways you aren’t even aware of yet, and I can only imagine how much more is in store for all of you. 

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