SINGAPORE - He was jailed two years ago for gang-related activities, but Adam (not his real name) has turned over a new leaf and is now studying hard behind bars.
The 27-year-old is determined to succeed. He has already earned a Diploma in International Supply Chain Management while in prison and is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in logistics and supply chain management.
This is under a self-study programme which was launched in July 2020 by the prison school and the Singapore University of Social Sciences.
Adam is also one of 80 inmates who received gold at the National Youth Achievement Award (NYAA) ceremony on Tuesday (Dec 15).
The awards were conferred at Institution Tanah Merah 1, which was formerly known as Tanah Merah Prison, and which houses the prison school today.
Those who had been released before the ceremony or were unable to attend will receive their awards on a separate occasion.
A total of 131 inmates completed the NYAA programme this year and were awarded gold, silver or bronze - the three levels in the programme. This is more than in previous years due to widening the age range for programme participants from 16 to 25, to 16 to 30 this year.
More than 2,000 inmates have participated in the NYAA programme since its introduction in prison in 2000. It aims to help inmates develop self-reliance, perseverance and a sense of responsibility to themselves and the community.
President Halimah Yacob said at the award ceremony that the NYAA programme is useful for developing personal qualities and skills.
Addressing the recipients, she said: "To Adam and each one of you who embarked on your NYAA journey, you can be proud of yourselves for making this effort to change.
"You have embraced the theme of this year's programme by daring to explore, leading our dream, striving to succeed and bettering our society."
She added: "I hope that the values and experience gained from the NYAA programme will guide you through the rest of your life, even outside these prison walls, as others before you have done."
One such example would be Mr Darren Tan, 42, an ex-offender who spent close to 11 years in prison for various offences, including drug consumption and trafficking.
During his time in jail, he received the NYAA Bronze and Silver awards in 2003 and 2004. After his release, he pursued his dream of being a lawyer and is now head of civil practice and a director at Invictus Law Corporation.
He has also been giving back to the community by working with non-profit Tasek Jurong and outreach initiative for at-risk youths Beacon of Life Academy.
For his work and service to the community, he was awarded the first ever Honorary NYAA Gold Award on Tuesday.
Mr Tan said that he still carries today the values he learnt through the NYAA in prison. "I benefited more from the NYAA than I gave to it," he said.
"The truth is many a time (when giving back), we also learn compassion, empathy and forming meaningful connections with fellow human beings," said Mr Tan.
The NYAA experience has allowed Adam to pick up new skills and valuable experience. One such experience was when a group of inmates hosted senior citizens from the community for lunch and put up a music performance for them.
"Doing these activities, where I can give back to society, I feel is very meaningful," said Adam.
While he cannot turn back time and undo his past, Adam said "the best thing to do now is to make good use of my time from now on".
He is grateful for his family's support. His parents have not missed a single one of the permitted twice-a-month visits. The officers and personal supervisors in prison have been unfailingly supportive of him as well.
"Someone is always motivating me along the path that changes me for the better. And I'm very grateful for that."