From EM3 to ITE to Polytechnic to University6 min read
Synopsis: Joey was the last person expected to do well in his studies, but he became a recipient of the Lee Kuan Yew Scholarship. In this story of hope, Joey shares how he achieved what he never thought possible.
Hi, my name is Joey.
Before I was a Christian, I never cared much about my studies. I might not look like it now, but I was failing every subject in class. When I was in Primary 5, I entered the EM3 stream. It was previously the lowest education stream for a primary school student. This meant that after secondary school, I had to go straight into the Institute of Technical Education, also known as ITE. ITE provides pre-employment training for secondary school graduates. I thought I had no chance of going to university. I was so discouraged that I thought I was just born less intelligent than others. But things changed after I attended Heart of God Church at the end of 2007. After receiving Jesus into my life, I became more confident. The next year, we had Academic Excellence weekend in church. Pastor How preached about creativity and encouraged us to do well in our studies. He said that creativity flows out of a wealth of knowledge. The more we pursue knowledge, the more creative we become. I realised that beyond the academic results, studying is for the training of our minds. My mindset was totally shifted. As I entered into ITE, I told myself instead of being worried, I should enjoy the process of learning. I studied more and also read up beyond my classroom materials such as learning how things work. That very year, my results were beyond my expectations. I finished every single semester with a GPA of 4.0 out of 4.0! Eventually, I graduated from ITE with a perfect GPA. I did so well that I was presented with the ITE College East Excellence Award. This award is for people who performed well in both their studies and co-curricular activities. I became the top student in my course and the sole recipient of the Outstanding Graduate Award. But that was not all. Out of the entire ITE student body of more than 25,000 people, I was one out of the 15 who was awarded the Lee Kuan Yew Scholarship. This gave me a full scholarship throughout my polytechnic education. I could not believe it. I never imagined myself being able to do well in school, let alone score a perfect GPA and even get a scholarship. I knew it was possible only because of God, who gave me the faith and confidence to do well!
In 2010, I went on to study a diploma course in Nanyang Polytechnic. It wasn’t easy to adapt to the life in polytechnic. There were times when I thought that I wouldn’t be able to cope. However, I chose to have faith. I also applied the principles that I had learnt from the Academic Excellence programme. Pastor How taught us that “In life, it is more important to ask the right questions than to find the right answers.” I started to ask questions whenever I did not understand in class. While others were memorizing facts, I was working towards understanding what I was studying. With that, I graduated from Nanyang Polytechnic in 2013 with a GPA of 3.65 out of 4.0!
These results allowed me to apply for all the top universities in Singapore. Others may call this impossible, but I know it was a miracle from God. I’m so happy to say that I secured a place in Nanyang Technological University, one of the top 3 universities in Singapore. From an EM3 student, I majored in Information Engineering and Media in the university. In fact, I am the first in my family to enter a university. Without a doubt, God turned my life around completely! Through Academic Excellence, I know that it is possible to do well in school and to do good at the same time.
After all that I’ve received, I wanted to give back to others. During my first year in university, I participated in a joint tuition program by Khalid Mosque and Heart of God Church. We provide free classroom-style consultation to secondary school students who needed help. I also mentor a group of 20 young people in church. Some of them were in ITE like myself. I saw how their lives can be changed too like how God has changed me. So, I was eager to guide them on how to cope with school, and share with them the principles I learnt through Academic Excellence. Sometimes, taking on these extra commitments meant that I have a heavier workload to balance. But I constantly reminded myself of a quote I heard from church: “Study to BE. Don’t just study to DO or to HAVE.” I knew that studying and getting good results was not just for myself, but it is so that I could be helping the people around me too. As I gave my best, God didn’t short-change me in any way. My GPA kept improving every semester throughout my 3-year course. I even scored an A for my Final Year Project and graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours! On my graduation day, I was so grateful to God for this journey. Never would I have imagined that a boy like me could get a university degree!
But God was not done yet. Before I graduated, I received a total of 8 job offers! Many were from multinational companies with great career prospects. I didn’t have to worry about getting a good job. Eventually, I started work in a management associate programme at a multinational company. As an employee for less than a year, my bosses entrusted me with big projects. I was even sent to Japan for exposure and training. This wouldn’t be possible if I didn’t change my mindset to be hardworking and diligent. Looking back, it feels so surreal. From EM3 to ITE to Polytechnic to University and now as a working adult, God has always been there for me. I can only be where I am today because of God and Heart of God Church. I am so thankful that Pastors started the Academic Excellence programme. It shifted my mindset and approach to my studies entirely. That is why I can share my story with you today. Indeed, with God, all things are possible!