By Jane Ng
WHEN Colin Ng scored poorly in the Primary School Leaving Examination and was posted to the Normal stream, he lost confidence in himself.
But dedicated teachers and time in the National Police Cadet Corps (NPCC) instilled in him a healthy sense of discipline.
Now, the 17-year-old Secondary 5 student is doing so well, he has landed a place at Temasek Polytechnic to study law and management next year.
Colin was among 92 students who were honoured yesterday at the Education Ministry's Special Awards Presentation.
The annual ceremony sees students feted for both academic and non-academic achievements. Among the awards were the Prime Minister's Book Prize and the Lee Kuan Yew Scholarship to Encourage Upgrading.
Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, handed out the honours.
Colin received the Lee Kuan Yew Award for All-Round Excellence. He hopes to join the police force upon graduation.
The youngest child of a store supervisor and an administrative officer, Colin said his time in the cadet corps played a large part in his turnaround from a mediocre student to a high-flier.
'In primary school, I handed in slipshod work and my aim was just to pass. But through the NPCC foot drills, I learnt to train for long hours with little rest. It taught me perseverance and I applied that to my studies.'
He is also the first student from his school, Geylang Methodist Secondary, to receive the prize.
Said his vice-principal Richard Chia: 'It serves as an encouragement to the rest of the student population. You can still do well regardless of your background.'
Another winner of the Lee Kuan Yew Award for All-Round Excellence was Mohammad Raihan Rosman. The 17-year-old from Yishun Town Secondary is now studying precision engineering at the Institute of Technical Education. He has also been volunteering at a mosque for the last 11 years.
He credited his former teacher, Mr Ong Kwang Wei, for his unwavering support.
'When I failed my first-term tests in Sec 3, he didn't give up on me. It encouraged me and I could see he really cared,' said Raihan, who rose from 29th position in his class to third.
Dr Yaacob commended Raihan for his 'spirit of volunteerism' and reminded other youth to pay forward their success by helping others.
Also present at the ceremony were Education Minister Ng Eng Hen and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, whose son Haoyi received the Lee Kuan Yew Award for Mathematics and Science.
This article was first published in The Straits Times on Aug 21, 2008.