There are many students who launch projects to help the disadvantaged.
But Ong Jie Jun, 18, is different. Although he has a need for money himself, he insists on helping others who may be worse off.
A few months ago, he started a recycling project with a Singapore Polytechnic (SP) schoolmate and raised around $400.
The pair donated the amount to SP's Student Services Centre to help disadvantaged students.
But Jie Jun himself has to work to earn pocket money for school.
He works as a phone promoter at Samsung Mobile stores from 11am to 9pm on weekends, earning $10 an hour.
Despite his work commitments, Jie Jun, a full-time SP student, excelled academically, with a cumulative GPA of 4.0 and achieving distinctions for all his modules.
He is the son of a self-employed freelance painter and an office clerk and he told The New Paper that he has been earning his own pocket money since he was in primary school.
Jie Jun, a second-year student in environmental management and water technology, said his first job was when he was 12.
After his PSLE, Jie Jun distributed fliers for housing agents every weekday during his school holidays and helped with his father's painting business.
He said: "It was tough working at such a young age. Not only did I work in the day distributing fliers along the streets, I also helped my father with his painting work.
"I knew that painting required a lot of physical strength and since I was young and fit, I decided to help him out."
STARTED WORK EARLY
Jie Jun's father, Mr Ong Hock Beng, 50, said: "When I was young, I did not like to work or study. After starting a family, I realised money was very hard to come by.
"Because of this, I made sure all my three children started working part-time when they were 12 years old, to train them and prepare them for the future."
The money that Jie Jun earned was for his own pocket money and to help with the family expenses.
In primary and secondary school, he cut down on his school expenses by using school books passed down from his sister.
He achieved an L1R4 score of 13 points for his O levels.
Jie Jun worked part-time as a sales associate at Toys 'r' Us for three months before entering polytechnic.
In SP, he worked on weekends as a phone promoter for Samsung Mobile, which led to some sacrifice on his part.
"It is common for me to miss parties and class gatherings (and) I do not get to see my friends as often as I like," he said.
Jie Jun attends classes from 8am to 3pm. Twice a week, he attends his co-curricular activity, SP Strongman, a fitness and physical training club.
He said: "CCA is the time I can relax, do what I love and hang out with my friends at the same time."
Now, with his 20-year-old sister working as a property officer and his 17-year-old brother in school, his parents want him to save his money for his future instead of contributing to the family.
On July 8, Jie Jun received the SP Engineering Scholarship.
The bond-free SP Engineering Scholarships include an annual sponsorship of $2,500 per year to cover tuition fees.
They are offered annually to first and second-year students in Engineering diploma courses.
SP is awarding 71 scholarships, including the SP Engineering Scholarships, this year.
Working and studying can be tough, Jie Jun said his priorities are clear: studies first, then work.
"Listening to the lecturer is very important. Whatever the lecturer says is gold," he said.
He studies for one to two hours every day to revise what was taught in lectures.
"I always persevere and stay positive," said Jie Jun, adding: "In primary and secondary school, I was an average student.
"But when I entered polytechnic, I began learning what I loved, so studying was no longer a chore.
"As a result, the good grades came naturally with my perseverance and passion."
He said he is grateful to his parents for giving him the freedom to choose what he wanted to do with his life.
"This gave me the motivation I needed to achieve and stretch myself, knowing that I'll always have their support," he said.
Mr Ong said: "I feel very happy and proud of my son. He never attended tuition classes because we could not afford it, so he had to study all by himself.
"All his achievement came from his hard work alone."
Jie Jun added: "I am very proud that I am a recipient of this prestigious scholarship, as not only are my efforts and hard work recognised, I have made my friends and family proud.
"And that is the best feeling in the world."
This article was first published on July 18, 2015.
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