Yukie Lim (right), 17, received the Edusave Character Award and Edusave Merit Bursary last Saturday.
The path to success is hardly ever a bed of roses. This holds true for Yukie Lim, 17, who recently graduated from Yuying Secondary School.
"I just wasted my life in Secondary 1 and 2 and did whatever I wanted," said Yukie, who was then known for her short skirts, long messy hair, use of vulgar language and fierce personality.
"According to her classmates, she was the 'Ah Lian Da Jie' (a loud or uncouth 'big sister'). Students were afraid of her even though she was very petite," said Miss Michelle Chan, Yukie's form teacher for three years.
However, it came as no surprise to her teachers and peers when Yukie received the Edusave Character Award (ECHA) last Saturday, which recognises students for demonstrating exemplary character and outstanding personal qualities.
"This award does not focus on the students' achievements, but their character. It is something every single student can work towards," says Miss Chan.
The Influence of Friends
The change came in Secondary 2 when a fellow "Ah Lian", a friend of Yukie's, started to be serious in her studies. It got Yukie to ponder over the upcoming end-of-year examinations that would determine her subject combination for the GCE 'N' level examinations.
"I was taken aback when Yuki's skirts became longer and she began to carry her books around to study", said Miss Teo Siwei, her teacher in Secondary 2.
Perseverance in Studies
"Life became different when I became a Christian", said Yukie, "I learnt to persevere and be responsible."
She began to study harder, though results were not quickly forthcoming.
Miss Teo Si Wei (right) was glad to see how Yukie (left) had changed since she taught her in Secondary 2.
"She didn't do very well in her studies, but she never gave up," says Miss Chan. She added that Yukie was among the bottom few in the class in Secondary 3, but her academic results picked up the next year. She did well for the GCE 'N' levels last year and received the Edusave Scholarship Award, given to the top 10% of the level and stream in the school.
Yukie acknowledged that it was not her hard work alone that resulted in the vast improvement. She is grateful for the help from her teachers as well as the tutor that her mother had found for her. Her teachers would stay back after school to conduct extra classes and even extend help to students over the weekends. Moreover, the teachers were not concerned only with their academic performance, but also with the students' welfare.
"Miss Chan really inspired me," said Yukie, "She is very caring and wants to know what happens in our personal lives."
Resilience of Character
The change in Yukie's perspective did not only turn things around in her studies, but also in the way she behaved and spoke. She began to understand that there were consequences to choices.
"I'm not a child anymore. I cannot create trouble and leave someone else to resolve the consequences," said Yukie.
"Miss Michelle Chan (left) really inspired me," said Yukie Lim (right), a recipient of the Edusave Character Award (ECHA).
Even as she tries to be respectful, responsible and helpful to the teachers, she would often be teased, especially by the boys. They would ask, "Where is the old Yukie?" to remind her of the person she used to be, or accuse her of trying to get into the teachers' good books.
"I would tell her that she should do what she believes is right, and she would agree," said Miss Chan.
Yukie's efforts paid off when her classmates nominated her to be the vice-chairman of her class in Secondary 5.
Looking to the Future
"I'm very thankful. I think everyone in my life played a part in helping me to be the person I am now," said Yukie as she thinks back on the five years. She also recognises that it has not been easy for her mother to provide for her financially, and intends to give the Edusave award money to her.
"Without the award, I will still hold on to my principles and values."
Yukie will receive her GCE 'O' Level results today and will next be pursuing her interest in Audio-Visual Technology at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
"As a teacher, it's encouraging to know that such a change is possible, and it can happen for any of my students as well," says Miss Chan.