He is the top student at Nanyang Polytechnic's (NYP) business school and will be receiving the Tay Eng Soon Award tomorrow, which honours outstanding polytechnic graduates who were previously from ITE.
Having completed his diploma two months ago with an impressive GPA of 3.69, Mr Tan plans to work in the finance industry.
But just eight years ago, Mr Tan Qing Yang, 23, was an unmotivated student with long hair and facial piercing.
The younger of two boys, whose parents separated when he was in primary school, was raised single-handedly by his mother, a sales assistant at a department store.
Her job left her with little time to spend at home with her sons, leaving Mr Tan feeling lonely.
"I was usually alone at home. The only time I saw my mother was when she made breakfast for me in the morning. After a while, I just hung out with friends outside more," said Mr Tan.
He lost interest in school and his studies while at Peicai Secondary School, which caused him to drop from the Express stream to the Normal (Academic) stream in Secondary 3.
"I was bitter about everything and I hated my situation.
"I blamed everyone around me except myself," Mr Tan said.
The turning point in his life came after he collected his O-level results, which were dismal and could only get him to ITE.
Touched that his mother was still so supportive of him despite her disappointment, Mr Tan resolved to change for the better.
"It was a moment of awakening for me. I didn't want to disappoint my mother any more. I wanted to make her proud," Mr Tan said.
He took up a two-year Nitec course in Business and Administration in ITE before pursuing a diploma in business management in NYP.
It was not easy.
To supplement the family's income, he worked part-time as a financial consultant while studying.
He recalled times when he had to work on projects and homework even after returning home from work at about 11pm.
But his interest in the course helped him get through the tough times.
He was even selected by one of his lecturers to work on an entrepreneurship project, which involved developing a free mobile app that connects users with private ambulance operators in non life-threatening situations.
Mr Tan said the app is still in the developmental stage and is likely to be launched in the third quarter of this year.
This article was first published on May 14, 2015.
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