In the month leading up to the A-level exams, she studied at home every day to spend more time with her father, who has a long-term illness.
Miss Esther Tan, 18, collected her A-level results yesterday and scored As in H2 History, H1 Maths, Project Work and Chinese.
She said: "I had a lot of anxiety. I had to juggle my family and my studies, and there was stress from the A levels. I didn't want what was happening to stop me from doing well."
Her father's illness had taken a turn for the worse when she was in her first year at Pioneer Junior College (PJC). She decided to spend more time with him after that.
Miss Tan, who has a 15-year-old sister, said: "When I was studying at home, my only break times were at lunch or dinner. We'd go upstairs to my grandparents' house to eat, and I'd talk to my dad.
"I felt that it was a chance to know him better. I never probed much about him in the past, but now I get to see his softer side."
Miss Tan is also a pillar of support for her mother, the family's sole breadwinner.
The two confide in each other often about financial difficulties and emotional stress, even though her mother was reluctant to distract her when she was studying for the A levels.
Now working at a secondary school on the Ministry of Education's teaching internship programme, Miss Tan gives $500, about half her salary, to her mother.
She said: "My mum said I don't need to, but I make her take it. I don't need the money anyway, so I give it to her."
Miss Tan, who was a class manager, said her friends and teachers were some of the biggest sources of support. She was also part of the PJC touch rugby team.
Her civics and General Paper tutor, Mr Billy Wooton, 49, was one of the few who knew about her issues at home.
Miss Tan said: "He told me to go to him if I needed anything. I wouldn't be here without his reassurance and faith in me. It made me feel like I was not alone in the school."
She is applying for a teaching scholarship and hopes to pursue history in university.
She added: "I want to be a teacher because my teachers were a very important source of support for me. I want to provide the same kind of support to for other students."
This article was first published on Feb 25, 2017.
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