She made it through tough times at home
FAMILY FIRST: Miss Cheryl Yeo (centre), who graduated among the top of this year’s ITE cohort, with her parents and sister.
Her father suffered a stroke that left him in the intensive care unit for three months.
After they sold their flat to settle the medical bills, Miss Cheryl Yeo's family had to move into five different homes in the span of a year.
All this happened during her time as a Higher Nitec student at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) (College West), but the 20-year-old did not allow these difficulties to affect her studies.
Accompanied by her parents yesterday, she received the Tay Eng Soon Scholarship Award at the ITE Headquarters in Ang Mo Kio.
She graduated with a higher Nitec in passenger service in May after getting a Nitec in tourism in 2012.
Recalling what she went through, Miss Yeo said: "I burst into tears when I saw my dad because there were so many tubes inserted into him.
"It was really a shock and we didn't know what to do and we worried over the hospital bills as well."
Her parents were divorced when she was two, but remained on good terms.
Miss Yeo, her older sister and her younger brother have lived with their mother since then.
Her mother, a pub supervisor, struggled to make ends meet and eventually had to sell their four-room flat in Yishun.
Before they could get a new flat, the four of them had to put up in the homes of friends and relatives, often sharing just one room.
Miss Yeo said: "It was a challenge because I had to constantly pack and unpack and it was also hard to find a place to study."
But she did not give up and her efforts paid off.
She scored a GPA of 3.89 and is now a first-year student at Singapore Polytechnic, pursuing a diploma in tourism and resort management.
The Section Head of Passenger Services at ITE, Ms Stephanie Low, praised Miss Yeo for being a motivated and hardworking student.
She said: "Despite going through hard times at home, she concealed it well and did not allow it to affect her conduct or attendance. She attended every single class."
Miss Yeo has been passionate about service since her secondary school days and was commended with an extra mile award during her five-month internship at Changi Airport, which ended in March.
Said Miss Yeo: "I love meeting new people and talking to them because they have so many stories to share. I get to meet people from all over the world and it is really a privilege to serve them."
The bubbly young woman added that she plans to further her studies in university so she can help her family have a better future.
Her father, taxi driver Christopher Yeo, 50, said: "The last two years have been tough for them because I haven't been able to provide for the family.
"Seeing her parents suffering, she wanted to work hard so that she can make life better for all of us."
Miss Yeo credits her mother for being a pillar of support.
Madam Daphne Tan, 50, said: "I'm very proud of her. She always did her best. I never had to tell her to study and she handled everything well, without any complaints even when she had to travel very far to school."
Miss Yeo said: "I understand my mother's situation, she is the sole breadwinner and she places us first even if she had to eat less. Complaining would just make her sad.
"She really made a lot of sacrifices for us and I will be giving the money from my scholarship to her."