A record 518 people from the Malay/Muslim community were recognised yesterday for academic excellence.
They received $347,500 in total at the Anugerah Mendaki 2016 awards ceremony held at The Theatre @ Mediacorp at one-north.
Among the winners for the first time are two graduates from the Workforce Development Agency's Professional Conversion Programme, under which people in the workforce go back to school.
One of the two winners who hit the books again is Ms Al Fatimah Begum Abdul Karim, 32, who is pursuing a diploma in nursing at Nanyang Polytechnic after doing a Nitec in nursing at the Institute of Technical Education.
A former assistant manager in the banking industry, she dreamt of becoming a nurse after being inspired by nurses who took care of her sickly mother when she was young.
She said: "It has always been at the back of my mind. So after 10 years in my job, the company underwent structural changes and I decided it was an appropriate time to leave."
Ms Fatimah feels "happy and satisfied" that she is pursuing her passion. She is proud of her award, which she sees as a recognition of her hard work.
FOLLOW YOUR DREAM
I would tell them it's never too late to strive towards your dream. Just keep trying.
MS AL FATIMAH BEGUM ABDUL KARIM, giving advice to those facing the dilemma of whether to pursue what they love or find a well-paying job.
For those facing the dilemma of whether to pursue what they love or find a well-paying job which is less fulfilling, she has this advice: "I would tell them it's never too late to strive towards your dream. Just keep trying."
Minister-In-Charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim told reporters at the event that it is important to acknowledge success, no matter what that success or the path taken to get there may be.
"People may find their calling later in life and then decide to switch over. I think this is also in line with the SkillsFuture movement," said Dr Yaacob, who is also Minister for Communications and Information, referring to the national movement to get Singaporeans into the spirit of lifelong learning.
"One day, we will see people who started out in engineering and may end up in nursing, for example. But he or she is able to excel and to have that knowledge there."
Another person who took the path less travelled is the valedictorian for the ceremony, Mr Muhammad Fariz Junaidi.
Mr Fariz, 25, graduated from the Singapore Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Arts in communication design with first class honours in July this year.
He had done a diploma in visual communication at Nanyang Polytechnic before going on to his undergraduate studies.
"It was not easy to get approval from my parents, as the creative industry is not a popular field here," he said.
"In fact, I initially wanted to do fashion design, but we compromised and I reluctantly decided to go into communication design."
But he has since grown to enjoy what he studied and is now freelancing as an "information designer" - someone who uses graphics to communicate information - for French news agency Visactu.
He submits his work to the Paris- based agency via e-mail.
"When I started school, there were only three Malays in my class. Now you can see that there are more," he said.
He finds it "satisfying" to see more Malays in his course as it shows that the community is increasingly seeing the potential of the communications industry.
He said: "Most Malays usually become technicians or engineers. Few of us take up jobs that are obscure."