Third time in ITE's the charm as student puts errant ways behind him
Poly student overcomes errant past and redeems himself in third ITE stint, serving as inspiration to peers
After not doing well in his second stint at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), Mr Lee Zhi Wei was hoping to sign on as an army regular before completing his national service back in 2018.
But that plan stalled when he was arrested six months before his operationally ready date for his suspected involvement in gang-related activities.
Mr Lee was in remand for more than two weeks during investigations. He was eventually given three years' probation - which was exactly the wake-up call he needed.
Third time was the charm as Mr Lee then went on to excel in ITE, even serving as an inspiration to his peers.
Mr Lee, 24, told The New Paper: "Being locked up for 16 days in a small cell was very traumatic, and I was worried I'd be sent to prison. I was relieved when I found out I was given probation.
"During the whole process, I saw the disappointment in my parents' faces. Having been given another chance, I knew it was time to stop the nonsense I was doing."
Mr Lee often got into trouble in secondary school, picking up smoking and getting into fights, and his parents were called down to the school several times.
He also got involved with gangs.
He first became an ITE student in 2014, when he enrolled in the Nitec in Microelectronics at ITE College Central. He had no interest in his studies and regularly skipped classes to spend time with his friends, and eventually dropped out.
In 2015, following his parents' wishes, he returned to pursue a Nitec in Infocomm Technology (Cloud Computing) at ITE College West, which he thought he could do better in as it was related to his interest in gaming.
But he had just turned 18, and started going to clubs to party and drink regularly.
In 2016, he was involved in a fight between two rival gangs in a club, was charged with rioting and was given probation.
His priorities outside of school meant that his academic performance tanked, and he graduated with very low grades.
Later, realising how much he had affected his loved ones, and feeling lucky to have been given another chance to redeem himself, Mr Lee got his life in order and started afresh after national service.
He broke off all ties with the gangs, changed his phone number and enrolled in the Nitec in Electronics, Computer Networking & Communications at ITE College West.
He became a member of the school's student council and got involved in school events and community service projects.
He would even share his life story with classmates who were rebellious or disinterested, motivating them to take their studies seriously.
Earlier this year, he graduated with a grade point average of 3.881.
Mr Lee recently joined the Ministry of Social and Family Development's Youth Advisory Group, and hopes to use the opportunity to mentor at-risk youths.
Now studying electrical and electronic engineering at Singapore Polytechnic, he hopes to rejoin ITE as a lecturer one day, after gaining work experience and earning a degree.
He said: "I spent five years in total at ITE and the lecturers gave me a lot of support and encouragement throughout. I would like to do the same for other students in the future."