Written by: Jyska Kuan Ken
Continuing the dream for a better education system
Holding on to the dream of better education for our
The past year
and a half was a test of trust, resilience, and gratitude. AHEAD, the review
and tutorial center I started, almost closed down because of the K-12 shift
mandated by the Department of Education. It was every entrepreneur’s fear
realized. We found ourselves at survival mode— from 4,000 students usually
enrolling in our summer program down to only 300 students. There were a lot of
heartbreaks, wasted opportunities, and sacrifices.
The closure of
the Greenhills branch was probably the hardest. We opened that branch in 1999,
the same year my daughter Darla was born. I always associated the Greenhills
branch with her. Both past and present students also had good memories within
its walls. They would hang out there in their free time, talking and laughing
with whoever is attending the reviews. We tried holding on to the branch but eventually
we had to let it go. It felt like a wave crashing upon us, the boat was
I poured my
savings in the company while selling properties to keep us afloat. I did my
best to hold on to keep my dream and the dreams of countless people alive.
We were more
affected than other tutorial and review centers because AHEAD has a dedicated
training and research team. The department had substantial financial
implications but quality is in our brand promise and I will never compromise on
bringing research-based and systems-backed education services.
The stress and
anxiety also made me sick, adding to the burden. I was diagnosed with
hyperthyroidism which slowed down my body and made me prone to develop other
sicknesses such as diabetes. Sometimes I couldn’t lift my feet despite shouting
orders at them in my head. It was a literal systems slowdown. How would I be
able to run AHEAD now?
Gratefully, it is truly during hard times that show how kind and supportive people can be. When I told the remaining staff to start looking for other opportunities, they stayed and continued to work together in bringing quality services to the few students who enrolled. Franchisees and landlords lent their support to help us weather the challenges. They patiently waited for us to get back on our feet. I am forever grateful for their kindness and friendship. I would like to mention Robinsons Galleria, the owner of the FBR Building, Xanland’s owner, and the franchisees. We were saved through their help.
But the most
crucial person during those trying times was my son Nicolo. He stepped up and
took over some of the operations of Ahead while I was recovering from
hyperthyroidism. He was fresh out of college and dealing with his own physical
condition. It didn’t stop him from quickly learning the ropes and making the
right decisions for the company. He later told me he learned valuable insights
from my stories about Ahead in the past years that guided him to understand
what needed to be done. I readied him for the position without even me knowing.
I was proud of him.
Now we are back, stronger than ever because of the challenges we faced. We are rebuilding what we have lost and working hard to achieve bigger milestones. AHEAD is rebranding and opening back branches. Students are returning to a better AHEAD. I am also finishing writing a book on women entrepreneurship called, “What’s the best business for me? And other common questions entrepreneurs ask.” It is the first book from my book series, SMART SUPERWOMEN.
I am also
reviving this blog to continue to share my story especially to the moms who are
experiencing the same things. I hope that this will inspire you to keep going
and fight for your dreams.
By Rossana Llenado
Women work for all sorts of reasons. For some, it is to pursue a lifelong passion. For others, it is to have that sense of self-fulfillment inherent in a job well done.
One of the reasons that I started Ahead Tutorial and Review Center 16 years ago was because I wanted to be able to manage my own time. I was a mother of twins, and leaving them in the hands of strangers was not acceptable. Going into the tutorial business seemed like a very good idea. Not only could I pursue my passion for teaching and molding young minds, I also get to keep an eye on my children.
Today, I have four children of my own, but thousands more that I could very well call my own. Yes, one of the great joys of being in the business of education is that you get the chance to meet all these wonderful children and see them grow up into young adults with purpose. You could see it in their eyes—that burning desire to learn and improve.
Nothing gives me greater pleasure than seeing a student shine—and I’m fortunate enough to have witnessed this many times over. A child would come to us, defeated because of failing grades, and then several months later, he has grown confident in his skills—and has improved his grades immensely.
And so, whenever faced with the everyday problems of raising four children and managing a company, I just picture that child who could now walk with his head held high.
I’ve been a mother for almost 16 years, and I have to tell you that there have been good days and there have been bad days. There have been times when I’ve been overwhelmed with joy. And there have been times when I’ve been sickened with frustration.
What does it take to be a good mom? This is one question that I always ask myself. The basics are easy enough: feed them, clothe them, shelter them, provide them with good education, teach them about faith, and shower them with love. I make sure that they grow in a psychologically and financially stable environment so they can be free to explore their various hobbies, interests, and passions.
But as a mother of twin teen boys and two young girls, I ask myself, what does it take to be the best mom? That’s because I always value excellence in everything I do, especially when it comes to parenting. And so, I read books, learn from other parents, and pray for guidance.
But what I’ve learned through all those years is that I can only try my best. For example, my children say that I don’t spend enough time with them. But as far as I could tell, I spend all my non-working hours with them. We not only see plays and watch movies, we also engage in sports. They say I’m too strict when it comes to rules. But then, I am only doing so to instill a sense of discipline and responsibility in them. I try to make them realize that there are consequences to their actions—or inactions.
I’ve realized that there is no one way to raise a child. One child is different from the next. And so, what worked for Angel may not do so for Meggy. Although I also get complaints on that: “You’re unfair!”
And so I keep trying. I keep working at being the best mom I can be because when I see my four children, I know that all my efforts have been worth it.
By Rossana L. Llenado One of my most vivid memories of my son Nicolo happened when he was just three years old. We were admiring the blooms at a flower shop in SM Megamall. And behind us was a bunch of other mommies looking at the beautiful floral arrangements. I must have looked so pleased because after some time, Nicolo said, “When I grow up, I’m going to buy you all these flowers!” My heart jumped to my throat. Like most three-year-olds, I knew that mommy was still the center of his universe. Nevertheless, his words filled me with joy. He said, “I’m going to buy you all these flowers!” I’ve been given flowers before but nothing beats the promise of my young beloved. Today, Nicolo is 15 years old. And true to his words, he has given me flowers through the years. He would give me bouquets on Mother’s Day and on my birthday. Once, he even gave me a bunch of roses. Put together, his gift of flowers would not be able to fill up a floral shop. But still, I am very happy. Next month, Nicolo will turn 16. Yes, my once sweet toddler will soon become a full-fledged teenager. And already, he’s talking about going to a soiree—an impending event which has brought me a bit of anxiety. Because after the soirees will come the crushes, and then the group dates and the prom, and soon, my once sweet toddler will be giving flowers to someone other than yours truly. I knew it would happen someday soon. And when it does, I will not cry. I will not shed a tear. I will be happy for my son Nicolo as he experiences the first throes of young love. But till then, I have the memory of this handsome three-year-old who made my heart jump with joy.