Poly grads make good and pay it forward

SINGAPORE - From a room in a three-storey terraced house in Upper Serangoon, three digital media design graduates from Nanyang Polytechnic started animation company Animagine.

They had no capital and each earned $400 monthly.

Fast forward 10 years, and Mr Ho Wei Siong, 37; Mr Ellery Ng, 35; and Mr Joshua Ngiam, 35, now run a successful animation start-up with 15 staff and an annual revenue of about $2 million.

Last year, the trio decided to pay it forward by introducing the NYP-Animagine scholarship.

"We were once students, and we understand what students have to go through," said Mr Ngiam. "We want to help students lighten their financial pressures, so they can focus on their studies."

A handful of polytechnic graduates from Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) and Singapore Polytechnic (SP), who have gone on to establish their own start-ups, are now offering bond-free scholarships to give their juniors a leg up.

The three other polytechnics here do not offer such scholarships, but have various financial schemes started by graduates to assist needy students and reward top-performing ones.

Animagine, which creates advertisements and develops software to help young students learn animation techniques, started the well- received N.E.mation! digital animation contest nine years ago, after a lecturer referred client Nexus, the national education coordinating agency, to them.

NYP also sends students for internships at the animation firm.

"NYP has always supported us, even after we graduated," said Mr Ngiam.

The NYP-Animagine scholarship is open to first-year students from the polytechnic's School of Interactive and Digital Media. To qualify, students must display outstanding academic performance.

Through the programme, Animagine commits $24,000 to sponsor three students and NYP will match the amount for another three. Each student receives $8,000, which covers the tuition fees.

At SP, three music and audio technology graduates, who co-founded music production house SoundFarm Production Studios in 2009, started the SoundFarm Scholarship three years ago.

The scholarship, worth $2,500, is given to the top student from SP's School of Digital Media and Infocomm Technology each year.

It is open to students from the school's seven diploma programmes, including digital animation and interactive media.

Currently, co-founder Mandric Tan, 25, who graduated in 2009, runs the company alone, as one partner has joined another firm and another is doing a music production degree at New York University.

SoundFarm has earned over $600,000 in revenue in the last six years.

Said Mr Tan: "We want to encourage students to take their passion further, and to show them that they, too, can start successful businesses."

These scholarships have been popular among polytechnic students, particularly as they are bond-free.

Said one NYP-Animagine scholarship-holder, first-year digital game art and design student Hoon Jie Ling, 18: "The scholarship pushes me to work harder.

"There is this recognition that someone is investing in my future."

This article was first published on January 19, 2015.
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