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From youth rehab to Republic Poly

23 Dec 2019


Alyssia Wee shows what can happen when you take charge of your life. This former Express student took her N-level exams inside a youth rehabilitation home, but is now en route to gaining her diploma, with a scholarship to boot. 

Alyssia Wee is now a second year Republic Polytechnic (RP) Mass Communication student and the recipient of the Daisy-Phay scholarship. But just a few years back, she was sitting for her N-Level exams in a youth rehabilitation home. Here, she talks about the ups and downs of her journey, and the moment she turned her life around.

Tell us about how you ended up in a youth rehab home.

When I was in primary school, my family was strict about my grades and pushed me to study hard. I used to study a lot and would even request for tuition. I scored well for PSLE and went to Express stream at Woodlands Ring Secondary School.

But in secondary school, I became quite rebellious. I mixed around with bad company and played truant just to hang out with them. I missed a lot of school and could not catch up on my lessons, so my grades suffered. I was placed in the Normal Academic (NA) stream. But that didn’t change my behavior, and eventually, my parents sent me to a girls' home.

What made you decide to change?

Being in a youth rehab home made my life more disciplined – and I had time to reflect on my actions. I realised I did not want to waste my whole life and achieve nothing. If I hadn’t changed, I probably would have dropped out of school entirely and not even have an N-level cert.

Inside the youth rehabilitation home, there was a ‘school’ and the teachers there guided me and helped me understand any topics I was unsure of. I started studying harder and tried to catch up on all the lessons that I had missed in school.

At the end of 2016, I took my N-level exams inside the home and managed to qualify for the Polytechnic Foundation Programme (PFP).

How did you decide on what to do after your N-level exams?

Before my N-levels, my heart was already set on the PFP. After my N-level exams, I just waited for my results to see if I could qualify for it.

I decided to go to a polytechnic as I already knew which course I wanted to do, which was Mass Communication. I have always wanted to work in the media industry as I enjoy planning, talking to people and writing.

I felt that going to a polytechnic would be a better choice for me as I would get a more hands-on experience because the things I would learn are industry-related. Also, a polytechnic internship would give me real-life industry experience.

I chose Republic Poly as it was the only school that offered a diploma for Mass Communication via the PFP. RP has a Problem Based Learning (PBL) style, I’d heard. I felt that it would be a better way for me to learn new concepts as I could apply it in my day-to-day schoolwork.

What do you think about your journey so far when you look back?

I feel that going into the Normal stream benefited me because I was able to learn at a slower pace. It helped me understand concepts more thoroughly instead of learning in a fast-paced environment.

I remember being looked down upon because many people thought that being in Normal(Academic) or Normal(Technical) means that we have no future. However, I always remind myself that just because I’m in the Normal(Academic) stream doesn’t mean that I won’t succeed as well. It means that I may take a longer route to reach university, but if I set my heart to it, I can be there one day too.

As I was not a very good student in secondary school, I did not expect to do well in poly, or even to receive the Daisy-Phay scholarship. Winning it made me realise that I have come a long way since my rebellious days. It has made me work harder to achieve even more in my educational journey.

In fact, the person who greatly inspired me in this journey is my secondary school principal, Mrs Ng Siew Bee. She did not ignore the fact that I was missing school and, instead, made sure to check up on me to find out what’s wrong. She was always there for me, even when I was in the youth rehab home. She would come to visit me and talk to me.  She was one of the people who made me realise how important my studies were. She helped me see that I could still make it even though I had missed so much school.

What would you say to one of your N-levels juniors now? 

My advice for those who just received their N-levels would be: think carefully about what you want to do in the future. If you’re unsure and join a random course just ”because you can”, you may regret it.

Different schools also have different learning styles, so you should take your time to think carefully about what suits you best!