SINGAPORE - In her first year at ITE College Central as a mechatronics student, Ms Norhidayah Norisham scored a perfect 4.0 grade point average.
But the journey there has been a hard slog for the 22-year-old, who is now in the final year of the two-year course.
The recipient of the inaugural Keppel Care Foundation (KCF) scholarship described her family situation as complicated. Money was always tight and they had to move homes many times.
After completing her N-levels at Canberra Secondary School in 2013, she wanted to continue with her studies. But Ms Norhidayah had to postpone it for three years to hold down a job.
She has been helping to support her family since she was in primary school, distributing flyers door to door to make ends meet.
By the time she completed her secondary school education, Ms Norhidayah was the main caregiver of her six younger siblings. She declined to say what her parents were doing.
She worked at a children's indoor playground, as a crowd marshal and also took on roles at various events.
"It was tiring to rush from my morning job in Jurong to wherever my next job was. I had no time to study," she said.
On Tuesday (May 14), Ms Norhidayah received her award at the annual ITE Student Achiever's Awards at ITE College Central. Her family was not in attendance.
She said of her determination to do well: "I paid attention and always asked questions. I made sure not to leave unless I fully understood the topic."
Ms Norhidayah was one of three students to receive the $9,600 scholarship for perseverance and academic excellence.
Mr Ho Tong Yen, the foundation's chief executive, said of the donation: "We believe in improving access to education, thus empowering youths and helping to maximise their potential."
The foundation had provided a one-time donation of $10 million to ITE, which was announced August last year.
The fund will provide up to three bond-free scholarships and up to 72 Keppel Merit Awards valued at $3,000 per recipient each year, in addition to the 430 awards handed out to students at the event, with some winning more than one.
This included 379 students receiving awards for excellence in the arts, sports and co-curricular activities (CCA) and 51 students winning Lee Kuan Yew (LKY) Awards, which are given to students who display outstanding attitude and academic performance.
Among the winners was Ms Tracy Koh, who graduated last year and is currently pursuing a nursing course at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
The 23-year-old was awarded the LKY CCA Award for her dedication towards leading humanitarian causes and enhancing first aid knowledge in schools.
In 2017, the former Red Cross member received the Community First Responder Award from the Singapore Civil Defence Force.
Thanks to her swift action, she helped save the life of a cardiac arrest patient.
Students Nur Amira Mohd Daud, Neo Ming Lun and Nur Shafif Mohd Rasul received the LKY Technology Award for their invention called the Friendly Crutch.
The ergonomic crutch features a movable handle, allowing users to safely transition from sitting to standing positions.
The crutch won them the Best Project Award at the 3rd International Convention on Vocational Students' Innovation Project last year.
Ms Low Khah Gek, ITE's CEO, said she was proud of the three students: "They were passionate about developing a good product, and their efforts have paid off."
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.