Two students overcome tough odds and become award winners
Born with cerebral palsy, 18-year-old Gan Sun Ling needs a motorised wheelchair to move around, but it does not stop her from being independent and active.
Yesterday, she received the Lee Kuan Yew Exemplary Student Award at this year's Special Awards Presentation Ceremony held at Republic Polytechnic.
The annual ceremony recognises students' academic and non-academic achievements, including their contributions to the community.
Miss Gan, the head prefect in her school, Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore (CPAS), was all smiles after she received the award from guest of honour, Ms Indranee Rajah, the Second Minister for Education.
She told The New Paper: "I can't believe it. My parents are happy too. It makes me want to keep trying hard to do more in school."
A typical day for her starts at 6am, when she takes the public bus to go to school. It can be a feat.
"When you flag the bus when it is really crowded, people may block (me) and the driver can't see me. I know people don't do that on purpose, so I always say excuse me," she added.
At CPAS, Miss Gan's lessons include vocational training and daily living skills.
School ends at 12.30pm and at 2pm, she reports for work at Bukit Panjang Public Library, which is part of her school's attachment programme.
She also plays boccia, a precision ball sport for athletes with physical disabilities, and she was part of the performing arts co-curricular activity in CPAS, where she learnt how to play various instruments, including the tambourine.
Another Special Awards recipient was Miss Siti Nurhajah Haron, a nursing student from ITE College East. She graduated with a grade point average of 4.0 and was named valedictorian last month.
She received the Lee Hsien Loong Award for Outstanding All-Round Achievement, the Lee Kuan Yew Scholarship to Encourage Upgrading Award and the Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Book Prize. The 24-year-old is currently pursuing a diploma in nursing at Nanyang Polytechnic.
Six years ago, Miss Siti's studies took a back seat when her father fell ill and was deemed medically unfit to work.
Her mother, who is from the Philippines, could not find work as she was on a long-term visit pass.
As the oldest of four sisters, Miss Siti left school to work as a part-time waitress,earning $9 an hour. She also worked as a clinic assistant and outdoor camp facilitator.
Her earnings helped with the family's essential expenses like utilities and groceries for the next three years.Yesterday, she said: "When I re-enrolled into ITE in 2017, I told myself to give my best because I felt that a lot people doubted me when I chose to leave school. I can't believe I have come this far."