She was a single mother who lived with four children in a one-room rental flat in Bukit Merah, earning about $1,000 a month.
Today, Madam Sharinna Tan owns a two-room Housing Board flat, and her eldest son graduated from Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) with an award for the most outstanding academic performance in his course.
Her salary has doubled to $2,000 after she found work as a sales coordinator, while her other three children - studying in NP, the Institute of Technical Education and a secondary school - are all coping well.
She had received help from various organisations, including government agencies, public hospitals and the Chinese Development Assistance Council, which provided her children with one-on-one tuition.
Yesterday, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung cited Madam Tan's story in Parliament as an example of how the Government has worked with community partners to uplift Singaporeans who face challenging life circumstances.
He also shared the story of Mr Hairul Hakkim Kuthibutheen, whose father died when he was 14.
Mr Hairul's family had to downgrade their flat, while his mother had to return to work as a factory operator and a service employee in a fast-food chain.
After receiving help from various organisations, including self-help groups Mendaki and the Singapore Indian Development Association, Mr Hairul managed to complete his studies.
He now works as a Justice Law Clerk at the Supreme Court, after graduating from the National University of Singapore law faculty with first-class honours in 2016.
"These are two of many Singaporeans whom our system has helped," said Mr Ong.
Correction note: This story has been edited for clarity.