She worked part-time for 2½ years. And at one point was even doing community service every day while juggling her schoolwork. But that did not stop Shermaine Ng from achieving GCE A -level results to celebrate.
The 18-year-old former Raffles Institution student was "overjoyed" when she found out she scored As in physics, chemistry, history, mathematics, project work, mother tongue and a C for the general paper.
Shermaine is the middle child in a family of five and her parents have struggled financially due to the volatility of the construction business.
This led to her taking up her first job at McDonald's in Secondary 2.
"When I first realised I had to work, I was more excited than scared because I wanted to pull my weight in my family's financial situation," she said.
Since then, she has held five different part-time jobs including helping out at her parents' business. There was also a time when she was holding down two jobs - at a fast-food joint and waitressing at Conrad Hotel.
CONSTANT REALITY CHECK
We are so often caught up in our lives with school and families but community service is a constant reminder that I'm incredibly privileged to have a supportive community behind me.
"My grades started to slip as I couldn't keep up. I was failing maths and chemistry and was barely passing physics in secondary school," said Shermaine.
Initially, she felt "embarrassed" and "alone" but after opening up to her friends and teachers, she received a flood of support.
"It was really heartwarming to see my Odyssey of the Mind (OM) teammates willing to take on more of the work to let me focus on my studies since I'm not the only one with problems," said Shermaine.
OM is an international creative problem-solving competition.
Despite her own struggles, Shermaine has always been passionate about community service. It was working with children in her secondary school days that made her realise how much untapped potential these children had.
One of her most memorable and formative experiences was a five-day service learning trip to Cambodia in 2014. She helped out in the building of classrooms and teaching local children English. "We are so often caught up in our lives with school and families but community service is a constant reminder that I'm incredibly privileged to have a supportive community behind me," she said.
The desire to do more has led to her decision to pursue her passion for service in a professional capacity. She has applied for scholarships at the Public Service Commission (PSC) and at the Ministry of Health to study occupational therapy in Australia or Dublin, Ireland.
Wherever she may study, one thing is clear. She is determined that everyone will have the same kind of supportive community that helped tide her through her difficulties.