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February 25, 2015

Business venture turned philanthropic crusade to help, educate the poor

Helping people, the less fortunate, is natural for Filipinos, particularly those who have achieved their success from humble beginnings. 

Nilo S. Gret, a former Bank Executive and native of Tiaong, Quezon province, is one of those Filipinos. He pioneered the first technical school in Tiaong, Quezon, where it is helping local students pursue paying careers with TESDA backed certified training.

Nilo and Zenny Gret during AITE's 8th Commencement Rites
It started in 2008, when Nilo was approached during a social gathering by a closed business colleague from Tiaong, Quezon, who openly suggested to him the opportunity to be part of running this technical training school based in their hometown province. Nilo was hesitant at first, but with his educational background and working experience, he agreed to be a business partner of that school.

Nilo invested in what is now The Asian Institute of Technology and Education (AITE). "I decided to be part of that school (AITE) in the hope that it would be a vehicle for myself to help other young people get a better education locally, where most people would normally travel to Metro Manila to pursue a college degree," recalled Nilo Gret.

But there was more to AITE that met Gret's business expectations. "AITE, the time I started investing on the school, was on the brink of closure, and it was only a matter of time before it ceases operation. I had to do something about it," said Gret.

The initial investment Gret put up to AITE, because the school needed to fill in the resources for its regular operational expenses, was short-lived. "It (investment) paid for the salaries of the employees, rental of the building, maintenance of the school's facilities, etc. Everything went on to those immediate expenses the school needed to pay off."
AITE School Building

Gret, with the school's depleting resources, had considered backing out of the business partnership. "My business partner, with the state of the school, backed out first, saying that he could no longer keep up with the school's expenses." AITE's fate was left hanging with Gret, who, at that time, knew little how to manage a technical school more so that it was in the brink of bankruptcy.

"We only had a few months to graduation, and with very limited funding to lean on, Gret decided to manage the AITE himself, slowly addressing the school's mismanaged operation. With over 100 students expecting to graduate with training certification, Gret worked to downsize the school's operation, keeping it to manageable levels.

"With my management, we were multi-tasking, keeping the school functioning for the remainder of the school year. It was a fresh start for AITE," said Gret.

Gret saw the bigger potential of AITE, not just as a technical school that offers vocation training, but a long term opportunity to help his townmates get proper education. Students could now get TESDA training or CHED’s 4-year education at a very low spending and without needing to sell a property so a family member can travel to Manila to get college education," said Gret.

Gret, with the help of his wife Zenaida, who is also now the Vice President for Finance and Administration of AITE, began focusing their time in the school's day-to-day management. "It was a difficult period for AITE, but sooner or later we were able to find benefactors willing to sponsor our students." AITE, with Gret's leadership and the school's trained technical trainers, began offering new courses and skills development training program.

By 2009, from the initial 100 students, along with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) formal recognition of AITE in that same year, the school started offering new courses and skills development programs. It now included four year courses namely: Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education (BSED) (with majors in Mathematics and English) together with Bachelor of Science course in Information Technology (BSIT), Bachelor of Science in Accounting Technology (BSAct), Bachelor of Science in Entrepreneurship (BSEntrep) and Bachelor of Science in Office Management (BSOA).

As a recognized TESDA partner, AITE added more technical courses in bookkeeping, driving, massage therapy, tile setting, mobile training in tile setting and driving, and two (2) year ladderized program leading to BSIT.

With Gret's objective of providing opportunities to more low-income group families desiring to have their children courses that would lead to immediate employment after graduation, AITE, which is now affiliated with various employment agencies, said the initiative is his way of sharing the success he has experienced from training and hard work.

In 2010, AITE moved to its own building with improved training facilities and equipment. The 3-storey building, located along Maharlika Highway in Tiaong was constructed to house the school growing number of enrollees from the province.

"AITE is developing, offering certified and four year college courses. We want this development to continue helping more Filipinos from Quezon get the right education so they can be employed, help contribute to the family's meager income locally," said Gret.

For 2015, with new expansion plans set in motion, AITE is set to open another 4-storey building to accommodate the increasing demand for education and in preparation for the introduction of the government's K to 12 program through the Department of Education (DEPED).

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