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Inspired to better themselves

Here's what three students who got their N-Level results said.

POOJA'S STORY

She bounces back after setbacks

She cried for four hours after getting her N-level results two weeks ago.

Despite being among the top students in her Normal (Technical) stream, Rosny Pooja, 17, was disappointed with her score of 8 points for L1B3 (English and three best subjects).

She had expected 5 or 6 points.

But by the next day, the Serangoon Gardens Secondary School student had decided on business as her first choice of study at the Institute of Technical Education.

She said: "What is done is done, I just have to try my best in future."

Dealing with life's disappointments are nothing new to the teenager.

Pooja never knew her father, while her mother, who is unemployed, is unable to care for her.

Pooja lived with a foster family from Primary 1 to Primary 5, and was later moved to the Chen Su Lan Methodist Children's Home in 2009.

Her elder brother, 18, lives with her mother in a two-room rental flat, while her younger sister, 15, stays with an aunt.

Pooja was referred to the home by the Ministry of Social and Family Development when her foster care placement failed after her foster family could no longer care for her due to other commitments.

Pooja said her mother has promised to take her home in two years' time when she has enough money to buy a flat.

Despite her personal challenges, Pooja is an outstanding student in school.

She had been among the top-three in her cohort since Secondary 2, and is an assistant-monitor and chairman of her class.

DOWNSIDES

Pooja said living in a children's home had its downsides.

For instance, she said she could not go out as often as she wished, especially when she was in lower secondary.

Study time was also fixed - 2.30pm to 5pm at a study hall - every weekday, and she could not always pick the TV channel to watch.

But there are also advantages, said Pooja.

For example, there are volunteers who help them with their schoolwork at least twice a week.

But the best advantage of all is her best friend.

Pooja said Pang Yue Yun has been a source of support over the years. They were classmates in Secondary 1 and 2, and have been close friends since.

Pooja said: "My siblings are not living here (at the home), so Yue Yun is like a sister."

The home has also recommended Pooja, a Korean drama fan, to a job at a Korean restaurant near the home, and she is saving up for her first mobile phone.

Ms Tamilselvi Kanagaratnam, who has been Pooja's case worker for two years, said: "I was so anxious at the exam hall and when they announced her name as one of the top students, my tears just fell.

"Pooja is very resilient; she bounces back each time she goes through a setback."

Pooja hopes to go to a polytechnic and become a social worker at a children's home after she graduates because she has been inspired by the social workers she met.

"They never gave up on me. Besides, I understand the children because I've been through what they are going through," she said.

YUE YUN'S STORY: She wants to do well to support her family

Case worker Melissa Lee (left) and Pang Yue Yun.

Like her best friend and schoolmate Rosny Pooja, Pang Yue Yun, 16, has been living at Chen Su Lan Methodist Children's Home since primary school.

Yue Yun and her younger brothers, aged 13 and 15, have been living in the home for six years, due to family issues. She did not want to elaborate.

When asked if she is used to living at the home, she shrugged her shoulders.

She said: "I'm used to it because I've been here since I was young."

Two weeks ago, Yue Yun, a Normal (Technical) student at Serangoon Gardens Secondary School, emerged as one of the top N-level students in the school.

She scored 7 points for L1B3 (English and three best subjects).

The soft-spoken girl said: "I was a little sad with my maths grade because it's my favourite subject, but I'm very happy with my overall score."

She scored B for maths.

Yue Yun said she loves numbers and calculations, and is applying to do finance as her first choice at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE).

She also credits her friend Pooja for helping her.

She said: "I used to be very quiet and shy.

"To be honest, I used to be scared of Pooja, but after we became friends, I've become more talkative and daring."

And she has started making plans for her future.

She has been speaking to staff members in the finance department at the home and asking them about the industry.

"They told me that the first two years in banking and accountancy will be tough," she said.

Yue Yun also hopes to qualify for a polytechnic after graduating from ITE.

She said: "I want to make a better living so that I can support my family."

During weekend home leave, Yue Yun spends time with her mother, a coffee shop assistant, who lives in a two-room rental flat.

Miss Melissa Lee, 24, her case worker of two years, said: "She is well-liked by the staff and residents in the home. She is always there to lend a listening ear and helping hand to others in need.

"Since Secondary 2, she has been very consistent with her schoolwork and always surrounds herself with friends who motivate her to study."

Yue Yun admits that there were those who made fun of her for being studious, but she brushed them off.

"It's their future anyway," she said.

KYLE'S STORY: He turns over new leaf after arrest

His brush with the law changed his life - for the better.

Kyle Heng, 17, was in Secondary 2 when he was arrested for shoplifting in June 2012.

The St Hilda's Secondary Normal (Technical) student said he and some friends stole game cards worth about $100 from a 7-Eleven store in Tampines.

He said: "It was just for the thrill. We were too playful to think about the consequences."

Kyle faced the consequences a few days later, when police came to his home and arrested him.

He had to attend counselling sessions under the Guidance Programme, managed by the Ministry of Social and Family Development and run by voluntary welfare organisations.

After completing the programme, he was determined not to go down the same path.

Kyle said: "I didn't want to disappoint my parents or cause them to lose face."

Once he put his mind to it, he was surprised at how easy it was to focus in class.

Ms Eileen Ong, 27, who has been his form teacher since Secondary 1, can attest to his change.

She said: "All of a sudden, he started being attentive during lessons.

"He wasn't satisfied with knowing the answers. He made sure he thoroughly knows the concepts."

Kyle was so determined to do well that he revised his work and did practice papers for six hours daily before the N levels.

He also discovered a passion for calisthenics, a type of exercise that does not require equipment or apparatus.

He would organise training sessions with his friends at the school's fitness corner after school.

The teenager credits it with helping him focus on his studies, saying: "Exercising and studying are similar.

"It's important to be consistent while exercising to maintain my shape. I also have to be consistent while studying, if not my grades will drop."

Kyle intends to study aerospace avionics at the Institute of Technical Education College Central.

He said: "I heard it's quite tough. But with proper time management, I know I will be able to do it."

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