Model student: Teacher makes rebellious teen a class monitor and turns him around
There was a point in his life when he was faced with two diverging paths.
One led to a bleak future, while the other led to success.
Mr Goh Jia Hui, 22, had been heading down the dark road until his secondary school teacher sparked a turnaround in his life, with timely advice.
Now, Mr Goh has won a Model Student Award from Singapore Polytechnic. He is one of 20 students honoured with the cashless award, which comes with a trophy.
Growing up had been difficult for Mr Goh, who is from a single-parent family.
He cannot remember his father, who left when he was very young. Mr Goh said: "In my eyes, my father was a failure. He is someone that I never want to be like."
His mother worked long hours as a waitress, making just enough to send Mr Goh and his brother to school.
Mr Goh's grandparents took care of them in her place.
Growing up without a father and feeling neglected by his mother, Mr Goh became rebellious. As he often neglected his schoolwork, he did badly at school, getting a PSLE score of 101.
He was defiant towards figures of authority, from his mother to his teachers. He refused to listen when they advised him to take his studies more seriously.
He regularly got into scuffles at Yishun Town Secondary School, often gathering his loyal group of friends to back him up.
Mrs Samantha Ong, who was Mr Goh's form teacher then, saw something in him that others missed - his leadership potential.
Mrs Ong said: "Although Jia Hui is quite small built, he was able to command the respect of his classmates who are much larger than him. It was as if they waited for his instructions before acting."
So she appointed him assistant class monitor, ironically putting him in charge of maintaining discipline in his class.
While Mr Goh was initially shocked, he made the most of it. He took on this new role with gusto and became of invaluable help to Mrs Ong.
He also realised how much trouble he had caused his teachers.
STRUCK A CHORD
Something Mrs Ong told him struck him so much he still remembers it today: "You can't change who you are, you can't change where you come from, and no one can help you except yourself."
Mrs Ong insisted that Mr Goh focus on his studies to secure a better future for himself.
He took her advice and even persuaded his group of misbehaving friends to study hard.
They are now mostly in polytechnics, having also done well.
He said: "It's strange how I used to influence these friends to pick fights and misbehave. Yet, now here I am influencing them to study hard and do well in school." After doing well in his N levels, Mr Goh enrolled in the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) as he believed it offered a more direct path to study aeronautical engineering, which was what he had wanted to do since secondary school.
He began pursuing a diploma in aeronautical engineering at Singapore Polytechnic three years ago.
Now a final year student with a GPA of 3.94, he is applying for the Singapore Armed Forces Overseas Scholarship in the hopes of attending Imperial College London to study the same subject.
He is thankful for the support his teachers have shown him over the years that helped him earn the Model Student Award.
It's strange how I used to influence these friends to pick fights and misbehave. Yet, now here I am influencing them to study hard and do well in school.
- Mr Goh Jia Hui
Although Jia Hui is quite small built, he was able to command the respect of his classmates who are much larger than him. It was as if they waited for his instructions before acting.
- Mrs Samantha Ong, Jia Hui's form teacher at Yishun Town Secondary School
I wanted to prove I'm not a failure
DETERMINED: Mr Jonathan Peh resolved to study harder once he got a place at Singapore Polytechnic.
His wake-up call came the moment he held his O-level results slip in his hand.
With an L1R5 of 26 points, Mr Jonathan Peh, 19, could not qualify for any junior college, or Singapore Polytechnic's (SP) civil engineering course, which he wanted to do.
Through a successful appeal, he eventually landed a spot in his desired course at SP, where he finally excelled.
Mr Peh had been an unmotivated and rebellious student during his secondary school years.
His poor grades earned him teases and insults in Secondary 3. His classmates at Zhenghua Secondary School called him a "burden", and told him he did not belong in the class.
This negative peer pressure demoralised him even further, causing him to care increasingly less about his studies.
He said: "I often felt lost and directionless, I couldn't apply myself in school."
No amount of reprimanding and punishment made him see the error of his ways, until he saw his lacklustre O-level results.
"When I looked at my results, I could not believe I had done this badly."
Once he got into SP, Mr Peh resolved to do better.
He said: "I wanted to prove to myself and to others that I am not a failure."
His efforts have not gone to waste. Now a final-year student and Model Student Award winner, Mr Peh has a perfect GPA of 4.0 and thanks the school for giving him a second chance.
His parents, Mr Peh Chee Keong, 53, and Madam Ang Huay Huay, 46, are proud of his success.
Madam Ang said in Mandarin: "When he went to poly after O levels, I noticed such a drastic difference in his attitude. He works much harder and is motivated to study.
"It definitely shocked my husband and I."