A YEAR-and-a-half ago, he never would have thought that hairstyling was for him. But now, he is dead set on working in a salon.
Normal Technical (NT) student Mohammed Dino Alfian, 19, often played truant and was caught smoking more than once in school.
But a special programme by Telok Kurau Secondary School (TKSS) has helped him change for the better.
Part of the programme was a course in hairstyling and beauty therapy. Dino was reluctant to attend the course, but he soon warmed up.
He recounts how at first it was tough dealing with the course work on top of his normal school work.
One lesson was for six hours and conducted at least once a week.
The classes were held at TKSS and at various salons belonging to Tamaris School of Hairdressing & Beauty.
He said: 'But after a while things got easier and I really started to enjoy it.'
His aunt, Madam Normah Ahmad, a 54-year-old housewife, said that she has never seen Dino happier.
Dino and 38 of his classmates graduated on Thursday after completing their hairstyling and beauty therapy certification with City & Guilds and World Beauty Federation respectively.
City & Guilds is a UK-based organisation which certifies the course.
The course was part of the programme School Within a School System (SWiSS), which started last year.
After completing secondary school, Dino plans to go to ITE and continue his hairstyling course.
TKSS principal Mr Harphal Singh said: 'I realised that the prospect of spending four additional years doing academic work did nothing to excite or engage the NT students under my charge.
'We decided to offer our NT students a specialised programme to better cater to their needs, abilities and aspirations.'
Through SWiSS, the school formed a partnership with Tamaris School of Hairdressing & Beauty here.
A customised 160-hour course consisting of seven modules was launched to allow the NT students to achieve a National Skills Recognition System certificate in hairstyling and beauty therapy.
The course would normally have cost a private candidate $6,000, but the students did not have to cough up a single cent.
Mr Singh said: 'We used certain MOE funds as well as our students' edusave to make this possible, plus Tamaris was kind enough to subsidise their fees as well.'
So far, the SWiSS seems to be a success.
Mr Singh said: 'Attendance is up and the attrition rate has gone down.'
He did not provide any figures.
Mr Raj Kumar Sivalingam, 36, dean of SWiSS added: 'The students are better behaved now and have become more motivated. They are even asking for additional remedial classes.'
Syakirah Binte Maslan, 15, successfully completed the course and plans on advancing her education in hairstyling overseas.
She said: 'Since I already have a certificate in hairstyling I can work part-time to fund my studies.'
Dino added: 'Many NT students don't get opportunities like these. I am really grateful for all that the school has done for us.'
Naveen Kanagalingam, newsroom intern
This article was first published in The New Paper.