Teacher saw his leadership potential

Teacher saw his leadership potential
INSPIRING: Mr Goh Jia Hui and his former form teacher at Yishun Town Secondary School, Mrs Samantha Ong.

There was a point in his life when he was faced with two diverging paths.

One led to a bleak future, while the other led to success.

Mr Goh Jia Hui, 22, had been heading down the dark road until his secondary school teacher sparked a turnaround in his life, with timely advice.

Now, Mr Goh has won a Model Student Award from Singapore Polytechnic. He is one of 20 students honoured with the cashless award, which comes with a trophy.

Growing up had been difficult for Mr Goh, who is from a single-parent family.

He cannot remember his father, who left when he was very young. Mr Goh said: "In my eyes, my father was a failure. He is someone that I never want to be like."

His mother worked long hours as a waitress, making just enough to send Mr Goh and his brother to school.

Mr Goh's grandparents took care of them in her place.

Growing up without a father and feeling neglected by his mother, Mr Goh became rebellious. As he often neglected his schoolwork, he did badly at school, getting a PSLE score of 101.

He was defiant towards figures of authority, from his mother to his teachers. He refused to listen when they advised him to take his studies more seriously.

He regularly got into scuffles at Yishun Town Secondary School, often gathering his loyal group of friends to back him up.

Mrs Samantha Ong, who was Mr Goh's form teacher then, saw something in him that others missed - his leadership potential.

Mrs Ong said: "Although Jia Hui is quite small built, he was able to command the respect of his classmates who are much larger than him. It was as if they waited for his instructions before acting."

So she appointed him assistant class monitor, ironically putting him in charge of maintaining discipline in his class.

While Mr Goh was initially shocked, he made the most of it. He took on this new role with gusto and became of invaluable help to Mrs Ong.

He also realised how much trouble he had caused his teachers.

STRUCK A CHORD

Something Mrs Ong told him struck him so much he still remembers it today: "You can't change who you are, you can't change where you come from, and no one can help you except yourself."

Mrs Ong insisted that Mr Goh focus on his studies to secure a better future for himself.

He took her advice and even persuaded his group of misbehaving friends to study hard.

They are now mostly in polytechnics, having also done well.

He said: "It's strange how I used to influence these friends to pick fights and misbehave. Yet, now here I am influencing them to study hard and do well in school." After doing well in his N levels, Mr Goh enrolled in the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) as he believed it offered a more direct path to study aeronautical engineering, which was what he had wanted to do since secondary school.

He began pursuing a diploma in aeronautical engineering at Singapore Polytechnic three years ago.

Now a final year student with a GPA of 3.94, he is applying for the Singapore Armed Forces Overseas Scholarship in the hopes of attending Imperial College London to study the same subject.

He is thankful for the support his teachers have shown him over the years that helped him earn the Model Student Award.

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