By Nicole Chan (19S05A), Kwee Qiao Ying (19S03K), Alyssa Marie Loo (19A13A), Benjamin Liew (20A03A), Sarah Lok (20A03A), and Emily Ni (20S03C)
Photographs courtesy of Alyssa Marie Loo (19A13A)
This year, Raffles Press also invited four Year 7s who have demonstrated exemplary commitment to service to share about their motivations for helping others, as well as the struggles they encountered along the way. Read our interviews with them here to be inspired.
This is Part 2 of our A Level 2019 Student Feature.
Bryan Wong Wei Zhi (18S03E) & Gini Wong Wei Wen (18S03G)
Same subject combination. Same CCA. Same ambitions. It is not unexpected that twins Gini Wong Wei Wen and Bryan Wong Wei Zhi, born a minute apart, would share an especially close, complementary relationship. Bryan was quick to admit, “I need her much more than she needs me. I’m quite dependent on her, for both academic and emotional support. She always has the answer.” He eventually summarised, “I’m emotional, she’s rational.”
Throughout their time in JC, Bryan and Gini were blessed with an ever-present web of support. The two would often encourage each other to keep going through their late-night study sessions. The twins also acknowledged their parents’ contributions, for “never comparing [their] grades or putting undue pressure on [them]”, and for directing them to seek self-improvement instead. “Our parents never had unrealistic expectations for us,” Bryan asserted, “They just wanted us to do our best.”
Apart from each other, the twins emphasised throughout the interview that their friends and the people they have interacted with are some of their biggest sources of inspiration. “You become like the people who have a clear direction; it’s very inspiring. You get really motivated. You see people who are really passionate and the passion flows to you,” Bryan said.
Some of Gini’s own fondest memories were forged with her class. While she admitted that it might not have been the most bonded class, everyone was very cooperative and supportive. This might come as a surprise to some, given the inherently competitive nature of the A Levels. “When anyone found A Level resources online, they would just upload it in the class group chat. if they had insider info from other schools, they would share it with everyone despite the bell curve,” she shared. “[Even] when we were applying for universities, we had a personal statement bank online where we would proofread and critique each other’s personal statements.”
For Gini, coming to Raffles also ignited a passion to give back. “Before coming here, I was very focused on academics…but after I came here, I realised that academics are not the only important factor in JC life,” Gini admitted. “Giving back to the community is important [too]. Rather than rushing home after school to study, I’ll make an effort to stay back in school to help my friends.”
This desire to serve extended to her efforts to engage the community. Both she and Bryan were involved in a community project to foster intergenerational bonding between the elderly and youth, while she was additionally involved in a partnership with SPCA to heighten awareness about animal abuse and welfare.
For Bryan, the idea to initiate the intergenerational bonding project was inspired by his experience working with Xin Yuan Community Care for his Project Work on the topic of loneliness among seniors. Even though continuing to work with the elderly was not required by the project, Bryan’s passion for meaningful work led him to volunteering long-term with Xin Yuan. As Bryan explained, “we know so much [about interacting with the elderly], we can afford to help them, so why not?”
Despite having to juggle between their numerous commitments both in and out of school, the twins never lost their motivation to give back to the community. As Bryan summed up, “If you love what you do, you can do anything.”
Sakthivel S/O Kuppusamy (18S03D)
Many students go on to study medicine because of parental expectations or peer pressure. However, Sakthivel S/O Kuppusamy’s motivation is different: he has a personal attachment to his dream of becoming a cardiologist, for he suffered from lung and gastric problems during his childhood. “The doctors gave me a chance to live”, he remarked, “and I want to make that difference in another person’s life”.
The notion of making a difference is one that Sakthivel holds close to his heart. Despite being deemed to be “uncool” for his involvement in the Indian Cultural Society (ICS) during his secondary school days, he used this criticism to further fuel his passion for Tamil, and chose to continue with ICS in RI. Armed with the ardent belief that the younger generation should remember their Mother Tongue to stay true to their roots, he hopes to continue helping the RI ICS members for many years down the road.
Sakthivel’s unyielding passion for Tamil ignited a passion for the language amongst his fellow CCA members. This, coupled with his charisma that exudes warmth and positivity to everyone around him, made him an inspirational leader during his tenure as Chairperson of ICS. Even when CTs were drawing near, Sakthivel not only led the entire CCA in staging their very own 1.5 hour production (complete with dance, drama, and singing), but also took the opportunity to integrate the juniors into the CCA through bonding activities.
Another of Sakthivel’s fondest memories from his CCA was when he represented RI in Sorchillambam, a national Tamil Debate Competition. With his passion and leadership, he not only clinched the Best Speaker Award in the Semi Finals, but also led the team through rigorous rounds of competition to the Finals—which was telecast live on the Vasantham Channel—and attained the silver medal.
When asked what advice he would give his juniors, Sakthivel highlighted the importance of striking a good balance between studies and play. “One mistake I made in Year 5 was that I only studied—I didn’t fully enjoy my time in school,” he recounted.
Sakthivel would like to thank his friends for ceaselessly motivating him throughout his time in RI. “My best memories in RI are all about the times I spent with my friends,” sharing that he had a front row ‘gang’, as he called it. “We did everything together.”
M Farhana (18S03B)
A community project in Year 2 helped Farhana realise just how much she loved interacting with others, and sparked a burgeoning passion for community service. Since then, she has been unstinting in her service to the community—awarded the Outstanding Interactor Award in 2018, Farhana, in her short 2 JC years, was an active participant in Interact, the Peer Helpers’ Programme, and also a Service Centre I/C under the Raffles Mentorship Programme.
Amongst the myriad projects Farhana was involved in, advocacy for mental health awareness was a cause that was “very personally important” to her. “In today’s cruel environment, we face a lot of stress, and mental health is something that’s very stigmatised (and) not embraced…that’s why I took part in the Peer Helpers’ Programme. My PW was also about reducing stigma around mental health, specifically Generalised Anxiety Disorder.” Through working tirelessly on projects like Mental Health Awareness Week, Farhana also gained a greater sense of self-awareness: “the whole programme taught me more about myself and how I deal with people, and [also] how I could change myself”.
Her service also helped her to see the world in a more empathetic light. Being in Interact let her realise that “not all people are apathetic towards the way they see their society”, and she was able to forge bonds with people “who are just as passionate about serving the community as [she is]”. Laughing a little shyly, Farhana said with grateful tenderness about her time with Interact: “Now I know there’s still some good in humanity.”
Yet, her commitment to community service was at times tested by the ever-present threat that plagues all students: exams. Farhana recalled that there were times that service events would conflict with school, particularly the period around her Y6 CT1 exams, when she was simultaneously involved in planning a camp for the children at her service centre. She recalls that it was a difficult period to get through, yet in hindsight she appreciates that she did: “I’m glad that it happened. I have something to look back on, and not just studies or grades.” She encourages her juniors that regardless of the tribulations they may face, “putting your heart into whatever you do will definitely reap the benefits”.
Even now, Farhana is still continuing her service to the community by tutoring her neighbours, most of whom are from Hougang Primary School. She is also considering pursuing something healthcare-related in university, such as occupational therapy or medicine. Regardless, she is convicted on one thing: “I know my career will be (about) helping people.”