2021 VSU LEA Topnotchers

On the evening of November 18, news broke out like wildfire that 3 #ProudViscans dominated the November 2021 Licensure Examination for Agriculturists (LEA).

They were Ella Hazel B. Estrada from the Department of Soil Science (DSS) who topped the 3,927 takers of this year’s agriculture board followed by John Carlos D. Boyles from the Department of Animal Science (DAS) who clinched the second spot, and Kathleen Mae A. Auxtero from the Department of Business and Management (DBM) who ranked 7th place.

This was indeed great news for the whole VSU community. While a number of VSU graduates in the past LEAs were part of the top 10, it was only in 2007 that a Viscan landed in the number 1 spot with Mr. Marco Rodel D. Aragon ranking 1st place about 14 years ago.

All of our current agri-topnotchers are from Bohol who graduated in June 2019 and are scholars of Department of Science and Technology’s Junior Level Science Scholarships (DOST-JLSS).

Not surprisingly though, these 3 #ProudViscans graduated with latin honors—Ella and John Carlos both graduated Cum Laude while Kathleen finished her degree as Magna Cum Laude.

On top of that, all of them were also active in extracurricular activities when they were studying here in VSU.

Ella led their regional organization ‘Kadugong Bol-anon’ and was awarded the top regional club of the university in 2018.

John Carlos, on the other hand, was a multi-awarded varsitarian who brought 5 gold medals and 5 silver medals in both the regional and national level competitions of the State Universities and Colleges Athletic Association (SCUAA).

Meanwhile, Kathleen was also very active in her course organization and was also accorded the Best Case Study Award by her home department.

Presently, these 3 #ProudViscans are working as senior high school teachers in their home province of Bohol as part of their 2-year return service for the DOST-JLSS.

But the question remains. How did these 3 Boholanos who are clearly very close friends end up nailing the agriculture board? What were their secrets?

In an exclusive interview held via Zoom a day after the release of official results for LEA 2021, the 3 #ProudViscans recalled their humble story of success.

In this same virtual interview, they revealed the ways they did to get ahead of the almost 4,000 hopefuls who took the agriculture board this year.

According to them, they owe their current success to what they call the 3Fs, which stands for Friends, Faith, and Focus.

1. Friendship and the value of being with the right people

Ella, John Carlos and Kathleen have been best of friends all throughout their VSU days.

But it was Ella and Kathleen who knew each other way long before going to VSU. In fact, they both grew up together in Tagbilaran City and studied from the same school from kindergarten up to college. They met John Carlos in VSU because of the regional club that was later on headed by Ella.

Truth be told, John Carlos and Kathleen have also been in a relationship for 5 years now.

Clearly, these 3 topnotchers have been in a very tight-knit circle always ready to be there for each other whether in academics and in their personal lives.

For the three of them, it’s about being part of the right group where they can share common interests, and collective aspirations to pursue a better and brighter future for themselves.

John Carlos effectively summed up how their friendship became instrumental to their success by quoting motivational speaker Jim Rohn who said, “You are the average of the persons you hang out with.”

It’s the perfect barkada goal fulfilled by 3 great friends who only want the best for each other.

From taking the DOST-JLSS together in 2017, to Ella and Kathleen living together as roommates in Sampaguita Dormitory, to staying in quarantine in the same room to prepare and take the board exam in Tacloban City, and now as public school teachers in Bohol, the friendship of these 3 #ProudViscans will surely continue even way beyond college that it may even extend to pursuing graduate studies together in another country in the future.

Everything seems possible for Ella, John Carlos and Kathleen as long as they will stick with each other.

Ella, John Carlos and Kathleen

The Big 3 taking a photo op during the VSU President’s Tribute to Graduating Students with Honors held in June 2019 at the RDE Hall.

2. Faith and their unceasing belief to the Almighty

Ella, John Carlos and Kathleen professed to be devout Catholics who prayed long and hard for the successful outcome of their first board exam try.

Their prayers were clear from the very beginning, that they all wanted to bring honor to VSU by landing in the top 10. In fact, they all aimed to be number 1 so that they will have more legroom to fulfill this goal.

“I really aimed for the top spot and I was right to target that. See, it’s only 1 point that separated me from Ella. And I praise the Lord Almighty for making our dream a reality,” John Carlos disclosed.

Ella said that they all offered a novena for 9 days straight before the board exam with their respective families also including them in their prayer requests.

“I really cried Sir because it’s a combination of outpouring blessings from the Lord for making it happen. There was even a time that I broke down several times because of the pressure but I entrusted everything to the Lord because of the motivations of Kathleen and John Carlos,” the teary-eyed topnotcher explained.

Clearly, their collective achievement is a product of their unceasing faith while also working doubly hard to put it to reality.

3. Focus and the unwavering determination to be number 1

For Ella, John Carlos and Kathleen, faith will hardly materialize if one does not combine it with strong focus and sheer determination.

Kathleen revealed that they practiced self-discipline way before taking the boards.

“It was John Carlos who pushed us to get enough sleep, to drink milk so that we can relax in the evening, and spend the whole day segregating the task to review each section of the board exam. We then share these to each other to complement our strengths and weaknesses in the different subject matters of the exam,” the 7th placer said.

In response, John Carlos attributed his self-discipline to his experience as a student athlete having competed as varsity player of VSU in both regional and national sports competitions

“My training in the athletics varsity was really helpful because it enabled me to concentrate and focus on a singular goal of winning gold medals for VSU. This same mindset that I got from my involvement in sports was what I applied in taking the board exam. In fact, it was me who set some of the rules that we all strictly followed before the actual exam in Tacloban City,” the athlete turned topnotcher imparted.

A pride and honor to VSU

Upon receiving the news about the impressive performance of VSU graduates in the recent LEA, VSU President Edgardo E. Tulin was more than happy to congratulate the VSU topnotchers who nailed the agriculture board.

“Wow, just wow! The whole VSU community is celebrating because of this win. We have been aiming for the prime spot for several years and it took us almost a decade and a half to realize it again. My heart is filled with pride and gratitude to these amazing students who brought honor and glory to our dear VSU. I’m also extending my heartfelt gratitude to the equally proud professors and mentors of these 3 topnotchers. You all made us very proud!” Dr. Tulin said.

For his part, the Dean of the College of Agriculture and Food Science (CAFS), Dr. Victor B. Asio, also expressed his congratulations to the 3 topnotchers, and the other 61 passers from the VSU Main Campus.

“This is such a welcome development for all of us here in CAFS. I see this achievement as a manifestation of our overall quality and strength here in our college. We will work extra hard to continue producing topnotchers and more board passers for VSU in the years to come. I also hope that the achievements of Ella, John Carlos and Kathleen will resonate to all our students so that they too can excel in their academic journey,” Dr. Asio expressed.

VSU Main Campus obtained an institutional passing of 48% which is way above the national average of 28%. VSU Alangalang also produced 3 agriculturists for this same board examination.

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