There are certain individuals who, through their relentless optimism and resilience, have the power to spin the adversity they face into gold. Jameela "Jam" Castillo (BA ‘24) is one such individual. Not only has she persevered through hardship to achieve career and personal success, but her experiences have shaped her into a deeply compassionate and community-focused person who shares her time and care with anyone who needs it.

Castillo grew up in Baguio City in the Philippines. Watching her father run his own business, she dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur. Unfortunately, Castillo’s father passed away while she was a child, leaving her mother and four siblings to manage on a single income. This devastating loss inspired Castillo to work as hard as possible to contribute to her family finances and gain financial independence.

Looking to increase her business acumen, Castillo earned a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Saint Louis University (SLU) in Baguio City. She started a small chocolate business to support herself through school. After graduating, Castillo pivoted to selling beauty and wellness products. Unfortunately, due to financial challenges, Castillo had to shut the business down.

Taking the setback in stride, Castillo landed a job in the accounting department of a local hospital. Her desire to increase her entrepreneurial skills led her to enrol in a Master’s of Business Administration at SLU while continuing to work full time.

Working as an employee only increased her motivation to build a business of her own. She made the bold choice to leave her job at the hospital and her Master’s studies to re-launch her beauty and wellness business. Just as she had started to work for herself again, the COVID-19 pandemic shut her world down.

Once again determined to find a way to achieve financial independence with her own business, she decided to step out of her comfort zone and look for opportunities abroad. After extensive research and planning, she decided to move to Calgary, where her brother was already living. Here, she resumed her studies.

Young Fillipina woman
Jameela "Jam" Castillo (BA '24) — 2024 President's Medal recipient

Castillo is currently working toward a diploma in Business Administration, majoring in Human Resource Management at SAIT. Alongside her coursework, she holds two jobs and commits her time to several SAIT and community organizations as a volunteer.

“I’ve realized that I don’t live just for myself and my family,” she says. “I live for those who need my time and energy the most: people who are struggling and people who are marginalized.”

By night, Castillo works part time as a cleaner with BGIS. By day, she’s the smiling face at the SAIT Students' Association (Saitsa) front desk where she gets to support her fellow students in a meaningful way. “Working at Saitsa is restful for me,” she says. “I’m an extrovert and I love talking to people, answering questions and helping out.”

Before working at Saitsa, Castillo racked up nearly 70 volunteer hours with the association in the 2023 winter semester — the third-most hours clocked by a volunteer during that time. “I just wanted to be engaged with different students and help out the new students,” she says. “I didn’t realize I had spent so much time volunteering! I was doing it because it was fun.”

Castillo joyfully juggles her studies and jobs with community activities, including being a mentor in the Student Engagement Mentorship Program, a student leader at SAIT's Interfaith Centre and in the Marketing & Recruitment Department, and the VP of Marketing and an executive for the Parks Canada Club. She also participates actively in the English Conversation Partners and Industry Mentorship programs. Outside of SAIT, Castillo volunteers as a kindergarten teacher through her church.

Her dedication to community organizations on and off campus comes from a place of genuine passion and excitement — making her busy days worthwhile. “All of the volunteering and leadership things I do are an outlet for me. Participating in all of it is amazing and I enjoy it so much,” she says.

In celebration of Castillo’s bright spirit, relentless perseverance and far-reaching positive impact, she has been awarded the 2024 President’s Medal. The award recognizes her as an inspiring individual with a steadfast work ethic and deep empathy for every person she encounters — someone who makes the SAIT community stronger and more vibrant.

“I’m still in the clouds. I never dreamed I would get this type of award,” says Castillo. “I didn’t realize that I was doing anything significant. I didn’t know that people were seeing my hard work — I’m just doing what I’ve always done. When I received the announcement that I got the award, I thought, ‘Wow, everything paid off.’ It gives me motivation to keep going.”
a view of the moutains and stream in between

Oki, Âba wathtech, Danit'ada, Tawnshi, Hello.

SAIT is located on the traditional territories of the Niitsitapi (Blackfoot) and the people of Treaty 7 which includes the Siksika, the Piikani, the Kainai, the Tsuut’ina and the Îyârhe Nakoda of Bearspaw, Chiniki and Goodstoney.

We are situated in an area the Blackfoot tribes traditionally called Moh’kinsstis, where the Bow River meets the Elbow River. We now call it the city of Calgary, which is also home to the Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3.