As a pupil with dyslexia in primary school, he struggled with his studies and confidence.
But that did not stop Mr Evan Tan Jun Wen, now 19, from earning the President's Award, the highest honour under the Boys' Brigade.
Mr Tan was one of nine who received the honour from President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the Istana yesterday.
It was not an easy feat for Mr Tan, who said he "did very badly at school, and lost confidence in my ability". And when he joined the Boys' Brigade, "no one said it to me but there were people who doubted whether I would do well".
He struggled through his early years with the uniformed group, finding drills and facts difficult to remember. More than once, he had wanted to quit, but stuck it out because of his friends' support.
The struggle has paid off.
Remaining with the Boys' Brigade showed Mr Tan that academic ability was not the most important thing to have.
He also learnt that he was good with presentations, and with more practical activities such as planning. Eventually he ended up topping his design and technology cohort at Loyang Secondary School, and moving on to do design at Temasek Polytechnic.
The annual award is in its 11th year. It is given to the most outstanding Boys' Brigade members, rewarding them for their leadership service and dedication.
Besides Mr Tan, the others who received the award this year are Mr Aaron Goh Qi Yang, Mr Arel Chua Cher Wei, Mr Goh Chern Ern Matthew, Mr Ho Yi Shian, Mr Benz Koh, Mr Lim Kai Wei Wayne, Mr Sia Chin Leong and Mr Victor Gwee De Ming. All nine hold the rank of senior cadet lieutenant.