Once he played truant; now he's a top poly grad
Realising he wanted better opportunities, teenager chose to excel in poly
He would have verbal fights with his school teachers, and often get into trouble over his hair or attire.
Mr Asher Chua would also play truant so often that his parents had to be called.
Sometimes, he would even catch a nap in an HDB block nearby till school was over.
But the person who once did all those things has since changed his attitude so much that come tomorrow, he will be graduating as the second top student of Republic Polytechnic's Diploma in Mobile Software Development (School of Information).
He got mostly As and his grade point average is 3.81.
Mr Chua, 20, has also been inducted into the Director's Roll of Honour for four semesters.
Looking back at his past, he said: "It was an experience. Without it, I wouldn't be what I am today. It was a bit rocky but it was probably necessary for it to happen."
Still, it wasn't easy to get to where he is today.
Mr Chua recalled how he used to try to avoid school when he was studying at Yuhua Secondary School.
"My parents would say they were okay with (me not going to school), but I noticed them getting more and more disappointed in me. I saw it in their eyes," he said.
In Secondary Three, the Express stream student finished last among his cohort and was told he would either drop to the Normal Academic stream or be retained a year.
Mr Chua chose to drop out. He was 15.
He worked at part-time jobs for three to four months - serving at a fast-food restaurant, distributing fliers and even selling ice cream.
He also helped his father, a cleaner at a Kopitiam outlet, to collect trays.
He recalled how his dad would leave home early in the morning and get home late at night.
"During the months I was working, I asked myself if I wanted to do part-time work for the rest of my life," he said.
His parents weren't well-educated so they were unable to qualify for a lot of jobs. Mr Chua realised he wanted more opportunities for himself.
A year after leaving school, he enrolled at City College Singapore and scored 24 points for his O levels in L1R4 (English and four relevant subjects).
Determined to try again, he decided to study for a diploma in mobile software development at RP.
"RP was a new start for me. I wanted to show myself and my parents I was capable. I wanted to just go all out," he said.
Asked what he would say to other youth feeling lost in life, he said: "It's very important to think through what you really want. Don't just go through life, make the right choices."
It's very important to think through what you really want. Don't just go through life, make the right choices.
- Mr Asher Chua's advice to others in a similar predicament
His mum stopped school to support him
His mother got retrenched, and he had to switch from a full-time to a part-time course at the polytechnic.
But Mr Senthil Kumar Vincent Asokan never blamed his mother or felt sorry for his predicament.
He recalled how his mother had to stop her diploma studies at Temasek Polytechnic to support his sister and him after their father died when he was just five years old.
"Not finishing her course then was probably her greatest sacrifice. She sacrificed a lot. Too much, actually.
"It was through her whole life. The time and effort she took to come back to take care of us. She was there for us, all the time," he said.
Determined to help his single mother financially, Mr Kumar, 26, found work as a full-time football coach at the Singapore American School and took up a Part-Time Diploma in Sports Coaching at Republic Polytechnic (RP).
He graduated yesterday while his mother, who eventually got a masters, is now working part-time as a counsellor at the Stamford American International School.
Mr Kumar even started his own coaching academy last November. Sportykids Singapore coaches children from 18 months to 12 years old in racket and ball sports.
He said he loves coaching sports, especially football.
When he was a student, he would play football every day, even after work, and watch the games.
He said: "Soccer occupies most of my life. You go and teach the sport, come back and play the sport and at night you watch the sport."
Not finishing her course then was probably her greatest sacrifice. She sacrificed a lot.
- Mr Senthil Kumar, whose mother stopped her diploma studies so she could support his sister and him after her husband died
He overcame obstacles with 'can-do' spirit
His mother got divorced when he was in Primary 5 and had to take care of him and his older brother.
Wanting to help support her, Mr Jovan Khoo, 23, turned to photography.
Even though he had only dabbled in it in the past, he decided to take it up seriously and make some money from it to help his family.
He watched YouTube videos to improve his skills and learnt how to take professional-looking shots.
Mr Khoo, who graduated yesterday with a Diploma in Integrated Events Management, said: "The first few months were a headache, to watch one video over and over again."
He also learnt to use editing software like Adobe Photoshop, Dreamweaver and Lightroom to enhance his photography and design.
The freelance photography he took up in 2013, in his second year at Republic Polytechnic (RP), helped earn extra money for the family.
He joked that he didn't get pocket money from his mother for some time.
His "can-do" spirit and independence helped him in his poly studies.
Mr Khoo, who is also the Tay Eng Soon Gold Medal award recipient and School of Hospitality valedictorian, said he was able to overcome many obstacles during his time in RP.
He recalled how he even led a committee who were responsible for planning several internal and external events.
The first few months were a headache, to watch one video over and over again.
- Mr Jovan Khoo on watching YouTube videos to improve his photography skills