SINGAPORE - He spends his holidays sorting books at the Yuying Secondary School bookshop.
The job not only supplements 16-year-old student Tan Wei Jian's family income, but also got him an unlikely friend - Madam Jess Tan, a 57-year-old sales assistant who supervises him.
"She gives me advice and encouragement whenever I feel demoralised," said the Normal (Academic) student.
"And because I'm naturally quiet, she talks to me whenever she can to liven up the atmosphere."
Said Madam Tan: "I tell Wei Jian to have more confidence in himself."
"He always thinks that Express stream students are more intelligent and that he cannot compare to them.
"He was also afraid to take his N-level results. But I told him not to worry because he had already done his best.
"He was definitely well-prepared for the exam because I always saw him studying his notes."
Wei Jian first noticed Madam Tan when he was in Secondary 1 in 2010.
He would see her working alone when he walked pass the bookshop during recess.
"One day, I asked her if she wanted anything from the canteen," he said.
Although Madam Tan said "no", this initial exchange got the two into the habit of exchanging small talk whenever they met.
When Wei Jian was in Sec 2, Madam Tan invited him to work at the bookshop during the holidays.
"I agreed because I didn't want my mother to have to work so hard," said the teenager, who lives with his single mother and grandmother in an HDB flat in Hougang.
"As a salesperson, she rarely gets to sit at work. And when she comes home, she complains of leg pains. It breaks my heart," he said.
Working for 2 years
Wei Jian has been working at his school bookshop every year-end holiday for two years now.
He works from 9am to 3pm every day, attending to customers and packing stationery and textbooks into cartons for delivery.
Madam Tan described him as hardworking, reliable, honest and keen to learn.
On Thursday, Wei Jian took a day off to collect his N-level results.
He was one of three students from his school who qualified for direct polytechnic admission, scoring distinctions for all his subjects except for a Grade Four for additional mathematics.
He sent his mother a photo of his result slip since she could not accompany him yesterday because of work.
His stellar performance did not come without hard work. He confessed that he often studied in school until the security guard chased him out at around 9pm.
"My teachers were also very helpful and answered any questions I had," he said.
He is the go-to guy for his form teacher, who depends on him for information on class matters, said his co-form teacher Colin Chia, 42.
"He is one of those students teachers want to have. If there were more students like him, teaching would be much easier," said Mr Chia.
Madam Tan was all smiles when Wei Jian showed her his result slip on Thursday.
"Wah, Wei Jian. Very good!" she said.
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