By Elizabeth Leong (18S06G) and Ling Young Loon (18S07A)
What do a national fencer, a service-superstar, and a theatre-lover have in common? All of them excelled in their own unique ways. This year, Press invited three J3 students to share their JC experiences. Read our interviews with them here.
Students and Stars: Ashiley
Ashiley Annushri came into JC with little experience in service. “I realised at the end of secondary school I hadn’t done much… so I decided to join a service CCA.” Ashiley joined the Piano Ensemble and Red Cross Youth Chapter as soon as she could. Yet deep down she wished to do more.
“I felt like I wasn’t doing enough… from the bottom of my heart… I wasn’t connected, I was just counting the hours”, she said thoughtfully. Ashiley found her outlet of contribution during the Bone Marrow Donor Programme: students should remember the nifty orange pamphlets breezing through the school last year. Ashiley was the kingpin behind its outreach efforts in the school, raising awareness for the cause and encouraging her peers to volunteer as bone marrow donors.
As with most adventures, success did not come early. Ashiley remembers briefly labeling the project “a burden”, as it inched threateningly near CTs. “It was very tiring… but in the end we managed to get enough sign-ups to meet our target, and even had to go back to the centre to get more swabs,” a pensive Ashiley smiled.
Beyond our green and white walls, Ashiley also helps out at Meet-The-People Sessions (MPS) weekly. She started doing so during her time in RI’s Governance and Civic Engagement Programme (GCEP), a Monday enrichment programme. “Yeah, I still do it. It’s pretty meaningful… in our school you don’t get to see all walks of life. In MPS you get to see those who fall through the cracks.”
Ashiley’s experiences in community service have motivated her to pursue it in the future. “[It] made me really happy. I’m definitely going to do a job that’s related to service,” she said with confidence.
Like all other Rafflesians, the A-level boogeyman loomed large over her mind when she was asked if she had any advice for those still in school: “Focus on your studies, juniors… At the end of A’s none of my friends – not even the smart ones – really felt 100% satisfied with their work… I think that’s the difficulty of the A levels… you’ll never know if you’ll do well.”
“But at the same time, do what makes you happy [lah],” Ashiley chuckled.
She also acknowledged her PW tutor Mr Jarrod Lee as someone she would like to thank. She described him as “really smart” and a “source of guidance” during her time in the school. Despite PW ending in J1, he frequently checked up on Ashiley’s class in their second year. “Even yesterday [the day before the release of the A Level results], he was telling us that we need not worry. That despite the grades we receive tomorrow, we are loved.”
A Good Sport: Aarya
Aarya Berthier has been fencing since the age of eight, and has truly excelled in the sport. She often competed internationally, representing Singapore on the global stage: in 2016, she became part of the first Singaporean team to clinch the Gold Award for the Foil team event at the Asian Fencing Championship.
During her interview with Press, she acknowledged the difficulty in juggling the heavy commitment of the sport alongside the regular demands of school: “Until the end of J1, I was training every day except Monday,” she remarked. “I would go overseas for 2–3 weeks to prepare (for competitions) during the school term… Catching up was a bit tough, but I was very lucky. I got very dedicated teachers who offered to meet me before and after I came back.”
When asked if she would continue to pursue the sport, Aarya admitted that although she liked fencing and representing Singapore internationally (“it’s a great feeling, to represent the country”), she does not “see [herself] going to the Olympics or anything like that”.
Instead, she has set her sights on reading law. Aarya is currently doing a three-week internship at a law firm, which she felt helped her solidify her decision as it gave her a glimpse of what she would be doing in that field. On her motivation to study law, Aarya described being inspired by the lawyers who helped her family resolve the legal issues that cropped up when her father passed away in her first year of JC without leaving a will. “Just getting to know the lawyers and seeing how they help people… They were using (the) knowledge they have to help people like us, who were more vulnerable, who lacked the insight to solve these situations. I was very grateful for that.“
During the interview, Aarya also happily recounted a time that a teacher supported her through a difficult period. She had been constantly pitting herself against her classmates throughout her two years in RI, and was losing confidence in her abilities. “One day, I sat down with Ms Ng [Mei Sze]. She told me something that made me pick up my confidence: You are your own cheerleader – if you can’t support yourself, how do you expect others to support you? Ms Ng then opened up to me about her JC experience and how she got to where she is now.” This moved Aarya and helped her get past her mental block.
On what advice she felt she could give to her juniors, Aarya talked about the importance of having good friends. “Just one person who listens to you and whom you trust,” she said. “If you put in the effort to find someone who cares about you and is willing to spend time to talk to you when you’re down… That’s what you need in this [school] journey. You can’t just burn out or do this alone – you need to pace yourself. That person will make it a lot easier. I was very lucky to have my friends with me. I wish I had realised that earlier.”
Beyond the Stage: Mahirah
Those of you who follow Raffles Players’ productions, or have watched performances by the Broadway Babies, would have seen the results of Mahirah’s passion for theatre. She professed to having had an interest in it since she was young, due to her parents exposing her to many musicals such as The Sound of Music.
“As I grew older, the interest grew. I realised how intricate theatre is as an art, in terms of the fact that it brings together so many people with so many different skill-sets. You need people who are good at music, technical stuff like lighting, you need people with an eye for design and putting themselves onstage… It all comes together as a cohesive whole, a finished product.” Mahirah tried her hand at many of these roles over her time in English Drama (RGS) and Players, in the process realising “how important teamwork, cohesiveness and communication was.”
Mahirah added that she also loved theatre as she felt it was a very impactful art form. “[Theatre] helps [audiences] to confront reality, in the sense of what themes you explore… [These are] real-life issues you’re tackling, with whatever piece you put up.”
But Mahirah went beyond merely exploring societal issues in fictional theatre pieces – she also chose to use theatre as a platform to advocate for and help the underprivileged in real life. She played a role in organising the musical theatre fundraising concert, No Day But Today: A Broadway Revue. “Like I said, musical theatre is an art form that brings together so many different people – it brings about the idea of inclusivity. We started toying around with the idea of having people with special needs, with a passion for theatre, included in this community [so they can] explore what they want as performing artists.” Due to logistical issues with the organisation they were collaborating with, Very Special Arts (Singapore), the event became a fundraising musical instead.
Other efforts by Mahirah to serve the community include rallying her CCA to initiate a one-off drama lesson to teach underprivileged children from the ALife Caterpillar Club, an enrichment programme that caters to children from disadvantaged families to equip them with necessary life skills.
When asked for advice for her juniors, Mahirah said, “Just know yourself. That is what’s most important in all aspects: helping you choose what activities to do, how you want to you study, how you want to maintain your friendships… It’s all about knowing yourself, what you need, what you’re good at, your limitations, (whether or not) you are willing to overcome your limitations… [Knowing yourself] will inform the decisions you make better. You’ll know what’s best for yourself.” She also emphasised the the importance of maintaining a support system, “for your emotional and mental health”.
Mahirah thanked her all her teachers, who “[in] one way or another have helped, even if I felt that they weren’t helping at that time.” She added that completing her A Level journey was not by her effort alone, but “the combined efforts of my teachers, friends and family as a whole.”
The interviews were very much poignant, yet powerful – passionate reminders of all Rafflesian aspirations. As our J3s take flight in the years beyond, Press wishes future Rafflesian batches the best in their endeavours; and that all will be our auspicium melioris aevi.