ITE graduates overcame adversity and setbacks to pursue their dreams
He received news of his grandmother's death on his birthday. Tragedy hit again when the 16-year-old lost his father to cancer a few months later.
Tang Yu Alexander, now 18, chose to focus on his studies as a way to cope with grief.
The ITE College East student, who recently graduated with a Higher Nitec in biotechnology, dreams of being a medical researcher.
Coping with studies and looking after his uncle, who has Down syndrome, and a depressed grandfather was a struggle, Mr Tang told The New Paper.
He said: "It was overwhelming but I took it one step at a time, planning day by day and juggling family responsibilities and studies."
Despite the challenges, Mr Tang, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, excelled academically and even represented ITE in the WorldSkills Singapore 2020 competition in the area of chemical and laboratory technology.
He also found time to volunteer at community events and deliver meals to the needy.
Not only was he one of the top ITE graduates this year, he also earned himself the Lee Kuan Yew Gold Medal Award as well as the Lee Hsien Loong Award for Outstanding All-Round Achievement.
Mr Tang is now pursuing a diploma in medical biotechnology at Temasek Polytechnic.
Another ITE graduate, Ms 'Aqilah Insyirah Abdul Rahim, 24, was left with few course options after failing her N-level examinations.
She enrolled in the automotive technology course in ITE College West without any interest in the course.
She said: "I was carefree and did not think that education was important back then."
Seeing how she was falling behind her peers, she dropped out of school within her first year in the course and worked at her aunt's hawker stall.
While working, she took the time to reflect on things and realised that she did not want to stay in the food and beverage industry, and decided to return to school.
Ms 'Aqilah said: "I chose to enrol in the mechanical technology course at ITE College East the second time as I prefer hands-on work and the course is broad, so I have more opportunities after graduation."
With the support of her family, lecturers and classmates, she graduated with a GPA of 4.0.
The recent Nitec in mechanical technology graduate was also awarded the Tay Eng Soon Gold Medal.
"I hope others can learn that if they make mistakes, it is never too late to start over," said Ms 'Aqilah, who is currently pursuing an engineering diploma at Temasek Polytechnic.