He was determined to prove himself

Muhammad Salehan would often disappoint his parents during his early secondary school days.

The then student of Bukit Panjang Government High would come home with poor results and often see them saddened by his performance.

"I would become very frustrated that I kept disappointing them, and got angry with myself for not doing well," said Mr Salehan, now 19.

"I wanted to be one of those students that went on stage for awards."

Now he has fulfilled his dream, twice over, with his second award with the name of former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew on it.

Mr Salehan was yesterday awarded the Lee Kuan Yew Scholarship to Encourage Upgrading (LKY-STEP) to add to the Lee Kuan Yew Award for Outstanding Normal Course Students (NT) he won in 2013.

Mr Salehan said he was determined to make his parents proud and had worked hard during his last two years in the Normal (Technical) course at ITE to achieve straight As for his N-level exams.

His stellar results then earned him his first Lee Kuan Yew Award.

Inspired by the award that he received and wanting to build on the momentum, Mr Salehan enrolled with the Institute of Technical Education's (ITE) College West Campus to do a Nitec course in pastry and baking.


His decision to do baking was something that he decided on immediately, and had the full support of both his parents.

"When I was young I baked with my grandma often, which led me to develop a passion for baking.

"So I really wanted to be able to pursue my childhood passion."

Mr Salehan did well throughout his first year in ITE, and was looking forward to his work attachment at a cafe that was going to be opened in school the following year.

Things took a turn for the worse when, a day before his industrial attachment, his father died due to a heart and kidney problems.

"He was already having health issues before, but it still affected me very badly."

Mr Salehan missed the first two days of his attachment and found it difficult to focus.

"My father and I spent a lot of time together going back to Pulau Ubin where he was born.

"I couldn't believe that he was gone."

However, with the support of his teachers and friends, Mr Salehan turned the loss of his father into his motivation to do better in school.

"Everyone around me encouraged me to press on, and looking back I'm glad I never felt alone."

His success in school culminated in a place at Republic Polytechnic to read Restaurant & Culinary Operations, and the LKY-STEP award.

Mr Salehan's mother, Madam Samsiah Samad, 48, is proud of her son's achievements.

"All of this is due to his own independent hard work and dedication," she said.

"Watching all that he has been through, he truly deserves it."


This article was first published on Aug 21, 2015.
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