TP graduates power through struggles
One previously dropped out of school, another persevered through dad's disease
He dropped out of school when he was in Secondary 3 to spend more time with his friends.
Yesterday, Mr Sim Rong Xing's determination to turn his life around resulted in him receiving the Tay Eng Soon Gold Medal, an annual award given to outstanding graduates who previously attended the Institute of Technical Education (ITE).
Mr Sim, 23, was one of nine graduates from Temasek Polytechnic (TP) who were presented with its top awards yesterday.
Mr Sim, who graduated with a diploma in accounting and finance, credits his mother for getting him through this difficult period.
He said he wanted to tell his mother: "I am really sorry for being rude or hot-tempered at times.
"Your sacrifice is what keeps me going, and I will try to repay you to the best of my ability."
Three months after he dropped out, Mr Sim realised he regretted his earlier decision and set his mind on getting his life back on track.
He told The New Paper: "I did not want to spend the rest of my life with nothing to look forward to, and I wanted to share some of my mother's burdens, so I felt I had to complete my studies to achieve a better future."
Mr Sim comes from a single parent family and sees his father, who lives in Malaysia, only once or twice a year.
He returned to Punggol Secondary School after a year to complete his N levels, then went on to study accounting at ITE College East before entering TP.
He intends to work in the audit industry for a few years before becoming a teacher in ITE to help others like him.
Said Mr Sim: "I was initially afraid people may judge me because of where I came from, but they treated me like anyone else.
"At the end of the day, you are the one who proves to others what you are capable of.
"Don't let others' impressions of you become a self-fulfilling prophecy."
Another award recipient, Miss Charis Sim, 19, is also no stranger to adversity.
Towards the end of her first semester at TP, her father suffered a Group B streptococcus infection after consuming raw fish, causing him to lose consciousness for five weeks. He lost his hearing after the infection.
Don't let others' impressions of you become a self-fulfilling prophecy.Mr Sim Rong Xing
Miss Sim, who won the Lee Kong Chian Award, refused to allow the incident to disrupt her life. The award is given to top graduates from non-science and technology courses.
She told TNP: "My friends said it was understandable if I wanted to take a semester off to focus more on my family... but you cannot just excuse yourself from life."
Although she had to visit the hospital every day in case that was the last time she saw her father, Miss Sim said she tried to put on a brave front to keep the family united.
Miss Sim, who studied law and management in TP, added: "Things like this happen quite often throughout life, and it was still bearable, so I wanted to push myself to my limits."