From near-dropout to pilot

Mr Shalom Lim (Left) has been given the Ngee Ann Kongsi Most Outstanding Overcomer Award as a tribute to his resilience. Mr Haley Poh is a recipient of the Tay Eng Soon Gold Medal, which is awarded to outstanding polytechnic graduates who take the ITE to poly route.

He was so addicted to computer games in secondary school that at one point, he would play for 20 hours and sleep only four hours.

Mr Haley Poh, now 22, said the addiction took a toll on his results.

He was ungraded for all his subjects in his first year at Compassvale Secondary School in 2006.

He almost could not get promoted to the second year.

Thankfully, Mr Poh changed and became more serious about studying in 2009 through his family's influence and partly after watching The Dream Catchers, a local TV show.

It was about engineers who had a dream about making the world a better place for mankind.

The show, coupled with his family's regular visits to the viewing gallery at the airport, where they would watch planes land and take off, fuelled his interest in engineering.

AEROSPACE AVIONICS

This led to Mr Poh pursuing a course in aerospace avionics in ITE after Secondary 4 and then a course in aerospace electronics at Temasek Polytechnic (TP).

However, it was not a smooth journey in TP for Mr Poh, who struggled because he was weak in mathematics and had no physics background.

"I was determined to succeed and I stayed focused on my goal, which is to be a pilot," Mr Poh said.

In his final semester, Mr Poh was accepted into the Singapore Youth Flying Club, where he went through higher aerospace engineering training and received his private pilot licence (PPL).

He is the first ITE graduate without an O-level certificate to receive the PPL.

He will also be officially graduating from TP next week as a recipient of the Tay Eng Soon Gold Medal, which is awarded to outstanding polytechnic graduates from ITE.

He makes it against the odds

At a most critical point of his student life, Mr Shalom Lim lost the ability to write and type.

But the resourceful young man found a way to succeed against the odds.

Mr Lim, who will be graduating from Temasek Polytechnic (TP) with a diploma in business next week, was born with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a progressively degenerative muscle disease.

In his first year at TP in 2012, Mr Lim, now 20, was devastated when he found that he did not have the strength to hold up a pen or type.

"I almost quit school. It was the lowest point of my life," he said.

But he persevered and even devised his own solution. He connected a USB stylus input device - a Wacom graphics tablet - to his computer so he could write with the little strength that he has.

Mr Lim has always been resourceful and he is generous too. When he was 12, he raised more than $100,000 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (Singapore).

At seven, he had started attending art class, which helped uncover his talent in contemporary Chinese painting.

Seeing how beautiful his paintings were, his mother, Mrs Grace Lim, kept a catalogue of them.

When he wanted to help raise funds for the association in 2007, she suggested they could sell the paintings she had accumulated over five years. She got a friend in the art industry to help and they compiled his paintings into an artbook, which was sold at the Art Cafe at the Esplanade Library.

They raised more than $100,000.

Mrs Lim, a housewife in her fifties, said: "It was amazing and unexpected. I am really proud of my son.

"As a parent, I felt anguish seeing my son struggle with his condition. But I have hope in him and I have learnt to embrace his condition because ultimately, life goes on."

Mr Lim has been given the Ngee Ann Kongsi Most Outstanding Overcomer Award for his perseverance in the face of adversity.


This article was first published on May 13, 2015.
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