Two Filipinas graduate summa cum laude at Wharton, NYU

Two Filipinas left Manila in 2014 to be part of their respective US colleges’ Class of 2018. They did not know that they would graduate with the highest honors four years later.

Twenty-one-year-old Lara Andrea Montales graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in economics, major in finance and business analytics from Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Wharton is listed as Forbes’ 2017 Best Business School in the U.S.

Montales was the valedictorian in elementary at the Colegio San Agustin-Makati. She also graduated with honors at the Philippine Science High School before enrolling at Wharton in Pennsylvania.

Janelle Panganiban also graduated summa cum laude from New York University majoring in global public health, public policy, and sociology.

She received the prestigious Alexander L. Shluger Award for Excellence in Sociology. The awarded is given to a senior student who has majored in sociology and who has excelled in his or her study of this subject. She is from the Gaddang indigenous group in Isabela.

Panganiban said: “As a Filipino, I feel like I have the obligation to bring all my knowledge back to the Philippines.”

College Admissions Mentors for Peers

Montales and Panganiban got to the universities of their choice with help from the College Admissions Mentors for Peers (CAMP), an organization that provides international education opportunities for young Filipinos.

“I didn’t feel like I did anything extraordinary. I was just studying what I loved studying. It was less for me and more for my family who was more excited than I was,” Panganiban told the Asian Journal.

“I was passionate about getting out of the bubble and I realized all the new ideas that were out there. I learned to love learning,” she added.

Panganiban finished secondary school at the Immaculate Conception Academy in Greenhills, Metro Manila. While still there, she saw a number of ICA graduates who went outside the country to pursue their college education.

“That’s where it started. They were teaching high school students how to study abroad and they gave tips about applying. I heard their experiences and I wanted to experience that as well,” Panganiban recounted.


Wharton awards summa cum laude to a student whose grade point average is between 3.80 and 4.00.

New York University

Panganiban said she chose NYU specifically because she has family members in Long Island, New York and also in New Jersey.

“It was easier to settle and I knew that NYU is a global university and there was something in me that was itching and wanting to really explore the world and look what’s out there,” she shared. “And also, it’s not a closed campus so it made New York the campus.” And after four years at NYU, she gained experience enough for her to be able to give advice to Filipino students who might be thinking of studying abroad as well. (Source: Asian Journal)