School gives him hope and a future
Syafiee Abdullah (above), 16. TNP PHOTO: JEREMY LONG
He felt like there was no hope for him when he failed his Primary School Leaving Examination in 2012.
Some of his primary school friends even called the school a "no hope school".
But NorthLight School gave Syafiee Abdullah, 16,not only hope but a future.
His time at NorthLight was not all smooth sailing, though.In the first two years, he was often late for school and had problems controlling his temper.
His mechanical services teacher, Mr Hamdan Hamid, 48, noticed the problems Syafiee was having and decided to take the boy under his wing.
Mr Hamdan, who has been at NorthLight for three years, told TNP: "I could see that Syafiee had potential and passion. But it was important to build up his character first."
With his mentorship, Syafiee started coming to school on time.
Mr Hamdan also suggested using sports as an outlet for frustration and anger and he coaches Syafiee in sepak takraw.
Syafiee said: "The teachers at NorthLight really do care. Mr Hamdan is like a father figure and really looks out for me."
Syafiee plans on studying mechanical engineering at the ITE after he graduates from NorthLight.
He also dreams of holding a position at port authority PSA, where he did his two-month Industry Experiential Program earlier this year.
He said: "I really want to make a difference.
"I want to show everyone that NorthLight isn't a school for failures."
NorthLight students share how school changed their lives
She had problems learning in primary school, but found it hard to ask teachers for help.
Until she was in Primary Four, she rarely spoke a word at school.
Millenia Silvianti, 16, has selective mutism, an anxiety disorder whereby children are unable to communicate effectively in certain settings.
Psychologist Daniel Koh said it is hard to diagnose and is usually noticed when the child is of childcare age.
Mr Koh said: "The disorder is quite rare. In my 16 years, I've only dealt with two or three such cases."
He said counselling may help.
Millenia was diagnosed in kindergarten and went for counselling in primary school.
It helped, but progress was slow.
She still had trouble communicating and interacting with teachers and other pupils.
As a result, she failed her Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) in 2012 and joined NorthLight School.
It took Millenia a month but eventually, she began to talk to teachers and students regularly. She was able to express herself clearly.
She told The New Paper: "The teachers here are very kind and patient with me."
Her English and form teacher of the first two years, Ms Pauline Soh, told TNP: "I tried to encourage Millenia to communicate in other ways, such as writing notes or on the whiteboard.
"She would also text me and tell me about her day."
MENTORS: (From left) Ms Pauline Soh, Mr Hamdan Hamid, Mr Eemanueil Tan and Ms Della Chu. PHOTOS: COURTESY OF MR NAVEEN RAJ, JEREMY LONG
She began to flourish at NorthLight.
She even joined the Girl Guides in her first year to interact with people.
By her third year, she became a patrol leader and mentor.
Millenia also completed a 10-week attachment at a FairPrice supermarket earlier this year, where she dealt with customers on a daily basis.
She said: "It was difficult at first, but I had a lot of practice at NorthLight.
"I found the manual work such as moving boxes and standing all day harder than talking to people."
Millenia Silvianti, 16 PHOTOS: COURTESY OF MR NAVEEN RAJ, JEREMY LONG
For someone who rarely spoke five years ago, it was a huge achievement.
Her mother, who wanted to be known only as Madam Hasianti, 43, told TNP in Malay: "I used to be very worried about her because she wouldn't talk in front of strangers.
"I'm glad to hear from her teachers that she's been talking more and she's happy at NorthLight."
Millenia plans on going to the Institute of Technical Education to continue her studies but is not sure of what she wants to do.
She said: "NorthLight has really given me a second chance at doing something and feeling useful."
(NorthLight School) has helped us rethink how we should develop a school's culture, and how teachers relate to students and to the curriculum.
- Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at an event to commemorate the school's 10th anniversary
School drew out the artist in him
He is in his first year, pursuing a Diploma in Animation at Nanyang Polytechnic on a scholarship after doing well at the ITE.
While the future looks bright for Mr Naveen Raj, 19,things did not seem so promising seven years ago when he failed the PSLE.
Mr Naveen then joined NorthLight School, which turned out to be the first step in achieving his dreams.
At NorthLight, he chose to specialise in hospitality services, but deep down, he knew art was his passion.
Naveen Raj, 19
Mr Naveen told The New Paper: "The teachers who knew about my interest in drawing would tap into their own contacts and give me advice all the time.
"The teachers really try to bring out your talents and help you work on them."
When Mr Naveen started at NorthLight, he was a mischievous kid and was often sent to the "cooling corner".
But he quickly grew into a responsible and likeable person, became vice-president of the student council and made an impression on all the teachers.
Even those who did not teach him recognised him because he would cheerfully greet them every morning.
Mr Naveen's English teacher, Mr Eemanueil Tan, told TNP: "Naveen is doing very well at poly, but he still remains humble and helpful as ever."
He visits his alma mater to mentor the younger students when he has the time.
Mr Naveen said: "NorthLight was like a second home to me.
"I wouldn't be where I am today if it weren't for the school."
From failure to first-rate student
When he failed the PSLE in 2011, his mother insisted he retake the exam the next year.
When he failed again, he decided to go to NorthLight School instead of sittingthe exam a third time. It turned out to be one of the best decisions Mohd Azlan Abdullah Lim, 17, ever made.
His retail services teacher, Ms Della Chu, told The New Paper that Azlan was a quiet and shy boy at first.
Ms Chu, who has taught at NorthLight for eight years, said: "He lacked confidence and needed reassurance he was doing things right.
"But he's also a keen learner. In just six months, he became more confident and vocal."
Azlan, who is studying retail services in ITE, told TNP about an incident at an overnight school camp in his second year.
A teacher helped him overcome his separation anxiety by staying up with him all night.
Azlan told TNP: "The teachers really helped ease me into independence."
Mohd Azlan Abdullah Lim, 17,
The support Azlan received from the teachers at NorthLight helped him become an exceptional student.
He graduated last year and received the Lee Hsien Loong Award for Special Achievement, an award for exemplary students from NorthLight and Assumption Pathway School, this year.
Even his family could see the change NorthLight brought.
His sister, Madam Zalifah Ibrahim, 35, said: "We're thankful to the school for taking the steps that helped Azlan blossom into a wonderful young man."
About the school
- NorthLight School was established in 2007 for students who did not pass their PSLE and were more keen on a vocational education
- The school took in its first batch of 228 students at its original campus at Dunman Road
- More than 1,400 students have completed their education at NorthLight School
- The school celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and officially opened a new campus in Towner Road on Sept 21. It has special learning rooms, extensive sports facilities and vocational training facilities.