I am happy to be here today to celebrate the achievements of all of you, the recipients of the 2014 Special Awards. Your achievements reflect the many areas in which you have strived and succeeded; your outstanding service to the community; and exceptional perseverance in the pursuit of self-improvement. My congratulations again to all the award recipients, and to friends, family members and teachers who have supported them.

There are now multiple educational pathways catering to students with different strengths and aspirations. In the work of the Applied Study in the Polytechnics and ITE Review Committee, which I chair, a key focus has been how to help our students realise their potential by identifying and developing their strengths and interests, and to work with our institutions and industries to help them upgrade their skills and learn for life. I would like to highlight three recipients who embody tenacity and strength of character. Provided with opportunities and support from their respective institutions, they stand here today as proud recipients of the Lee Kuan Yew Scholarship to Encourage Upgrading.

The first is Alvin Chew Bing Liang. He enrolled in a Diploma in Biomedical Science certain that he wanted to be a researcher. He went on to complete a one-year internship linked final year project at the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School where he did exceptionally well deciphering the relationship between cholesterol levels of patients and dengue infection. Throughout his time at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, he also found time to organise and serve the community, took part in adventure races such as Pinnacle 2009, and co-founded Science Fusion, a science club to encourage interest in science among Ngee Ann Polytechnic and secondary school students.

Then there is Muhammad Asyraf Bin Chumino, an example of those who had to overcome great odds. At 10, he dropped out of school to care for his mother, who fell into depression after his father passed away. As he had fallen behind his peers, he completed a two-year programme at Mendaki before enrolling at NorthLight School, where he excelled and topped his cohort in 2011. He continued to be diligent in ITE, and also worked part-time to support his family. He confessed that he thought of giving up as his work usually ended after midnight, and he was often tired and late for class. With the help of his lecturers and taking into consideration how far he had come, he pressed on. His mother is his main motivation to do the best he can in whatever he does. Today, no one is prouder of Asyraf than his mother, and we congratulate both of them.

Another recipient of the Lee Kuan Yew Scholarship to Encourage Upgrading is Hung Chung-Yuan, who came to Singapore from Taiwan when he was 18. He had to overcome the initial language barrier but fortunately, he met a group of friends who taught him English. Being mostly ITE graduates, they inspired Chung-Yuan to enrol at ITE after completing his National Service. There, he excelled in Electronics Engineering, having participated in and winning at various international competitions such as the APEC Micromouse Contest held in the United States. He considers his father his role model and is en route to achieving his goal of being an Electronics Engineer in the aviation industry. Chung-Yuan is currently pursuing a Diploma in Aerospace Electronics at Singapore Polytechnic. We hope more individuals will have the chance to explore what motivates them and build careers in their areas of passion.

As you embark on your further studies, do not forget that learning happens on the job and throughout one’s lifetime. Take time to discover your passions and strengths, choose a career that allows you to harness these qualities, and continue to deepen your skills through work and continuing education later on.

I hope you will always continue to have the passion, commitment and resilience to pursue your dreams. Let me congratulate all of you once again, and wish you all the best in your future endeavours.