Saturday 17 August 2013

Five youths awarded President's Scholarship 2013

By Sharon See, Channel NewsAsia, 16 Aug 2013

Five young Singaporeans have been awarded the prestigious President's Scholarship this year.

They are Joshua Jesudason, Stephanie Siow, I Naishad Kai-ren, Timothy Yap and Scott Ang.

The scholarship is given to outstanding individuals who wish to take up a career in the Public Service.

They were picked by the Public Service Commission for their outstanding academic and co-curricular achievements, character, and leadership potential.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam reminded the scholars that they bear a heavy responsibility.

He said: "As recipients of the President's Scholarship, you bear a heavy responsibility. Your peers and fellow Singaporeans will look to you for such leadership to bring Singapore forward.

"Beyond excellence in your academics and careers, each of you will have to work hard to nurture both unity and diversity in our society.

"The policies you create and implement must be done not in an ivory tower, but through strong connections and engagement with the community."

A passion for the community

If there is one thing in common among the five scholars, it is their passion for community service.

Until he was eight years old, Joshua Jesudason's spent his formative years in Papua New Guinea, where his parents did missionary work. He was home-schooled until he returned to Singapore. However, the experience of living in a rural village has shaped his world view, said the Anglo-Chinese Junior College student.

He said: "Despite the fact that people there were not well-to-do by our standards, we were still very welcome there. There was a very strong sense of openness and 'welcoming-ness' and even gratitude to my parents for doing literacy... work there.

"I remember one time, despite the fact that these people were eating like potatoes three meals a day, seven days a week -- out of the blue sometimes, they'll just come over to my parents' house where they lived and they'll just give us a chicken...

"It's a really big deal to them because it's something that is not in their normal diet and it's something that they could feed their family with and they just give it out of gratitude to my parents for being there.

"You see how small things like that can mean so much to them and yet they're still willing to sacrifice that. And in the setting of a place where there's no supermarkets, there's no convenience stores, it really changes your perspectives and how you see people. And I think that's really what has shaped me up to today."

Joshua's parents' involvement in community work has also seeded his interest in public service. He will be heading to the University of Oxford in UK to study history and politics on a Singapore Police Force (SPF) Overseas Scholarship.

Similarly inspired by her parents, Stephanie Siow from Raffles Institution remembers a rough period in secondary school when her mother was ill.

Stephanie Siow, who was awarded an Overseas Merit Scholarship (Open), said: "Even though she had this illness, she didn't stop there -- her life really just moved on from it, she went for the treatment and recovered. So when she recovered, she actually turned around to help other patients, and now she's a counsellor in various hospitals.

"I think it's this kind of attitude that I really want to emulate and she has really modelled this way for me. If I face any setbacks in the future, if I can help the people around me, I would really want to do so. So I really think my mum is my role model."

Stephanie will major in Economics at Yale University in the US, and she hopes to be involved in economic or social policy work when she returns to Singapore.

I Naishad Kai-ren, who was also from Raffles Institution, remembers a community service programme he took part in which involved Tanglin School, which is for students with intellectual disabilities.

When the plan to teach the Tanglin School students drama did not pan out, Naishad and his friends decided to give the students lessons on life skills instead.

He said: "Throughout those lessons that we held with them, what struck us was that we are very blessed to be born with the faculties that we are born with. And many of them are just like you or me, just that they haven't been as blessed as we have been.

"So we learnt that for us, having been endowed with these faculties, we need to play a larger role in society. We really need to give back because we have so many opportunities to develop ourselves, and it's really about thinking of the greater good than just about the individual."

Naishad went on to organise his own projects, including initiating Raffles Community Day, a day dedicated to community service.

He will study liberal arts at Brown University in the US on an Overseas Merit Scholarship (Open).

The other two President's Scholars will read law in the UK. Timothy Yap from Hwa Chong Institution will head to the University of Oxford under the Singapore Police Force Overseas Scholarship.

Scott Ang from Anglo-Chinese School (Independent), who is the only Singapore Armed Forces scholar among the five President's Scholars, is going to the University of Cambridge.

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