He grew up sharing a room with his divorced mother and his younger sister, but his situation only spurred him on to do his best.
Mr Marcus Lim, 20, won both the Lee Kuan Yew Model Student Award and ITE CCA Medal yesterday.
Said his mother, clinic assistant Anna Boo, 43: "Even though he comes from a single-parent family, he has never disappointed me."
"He always has an idea of what he wants to do and I will always support him," said Madam Boo, who rents the room in her sister's four-room HDB flat at Senja Road in Bukit Panjang.
Mr Lim's parents divorced when he was three and he has had no contact with his father since.
To pursue his studies in ITE, he earned a scholarship from the Building and Construction Authority (BCA). Throughout his course - Higher Nitec in Electrical Engineering at ITE College West, he took part in many competitions.
"They motivated me to do well in my course and gave me more knowledge about concepts learned in class," he said.
His team even fended off competition from local and foreign universities to take one of the top spots in Shell Eco-Marathon 2015, which challenges student teams from around the world to design, build and test ultra energy-efficient vehicles.
"We went in wanting to improve ITE's score from the previous year, but I did not imagine we could win third prize out of 42 teams, beating the university students," said Mr Lim.
He even earned a Silver medal at the 2014 WorldSkills Singapore competition where he learnt the skills of installing, wiring, and programming a switchboard from scratch.
The competition required more in-depth knowledge compared to his usual classes and he attended more than 100 training sessions in nine months, sacrificing vacation and leisure time.
Since space at home was limited, he would go to school early to study and stay there till late.
He graduated with a perfect GPA of 4.0 and is studying Electrical Engineering at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, where he was able to enrol as a second-year student due to his excellent ITE results.
Mr Lim has big dreams, saying: "When I serve my bond with BCA, I hope to be able to build construction sites and save enough money to go to university, to thank my mother for her support."
But he did not want to trouble his mother to attend yesterday's ceremony.
"She has to work from the morning to evening to provide for our education."
This article was first published on May 29, 2015.
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