When his mother lost her job after a minor stroke in 2014, Mr Puvanaswaran Manikam had to take on part-time work to help pay the bills as his father could not work longer hours due to his health problems.
Mr Puvanaswaran worked as a part-time waiter in Parkway Hotel on weekends while juggling his studies at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) and heavy involvement in two co-curricular activities (CCA) - the student council and cross-country running.
But that did not affect his grades. He was one of the top ITE students who graduated this year from the Applied Food Science course.
The 20-year-old from ITE College East scored a cumulative grade point average of 3.935 out of 4.0 and received the prestigious Lee Kuan Yew (LKY) Model Student Award yesterday at the annual Student Achievers' Awards Presentation Ceremony.
The award is given to students who display outstanding attitude and academic performance.
Mr Puvanaswaran said people often perceive ITE as "the end of your journey".
"But for me, it was the start of my journey," he said.
It was in ITE where he developed leadership skills. He headed various projects as general-secretary of the student council.
When he completes his national service in two years' time, he will study integrated events management at Republic Polytechnic.
He aspires to be a prison officer so that he can help inmates rehabilitate and integrate back into the community.
Mr Puvanaswaran is one of 47 ITE students in Singapore who received the LKY Award this year.
Mr Aiden Chan Sung Yi, 24, from ITE College Central, received the LKY Technology Award for developing an automated fire extinguisher that can be fixed on any home ceiling .
His team completed the prototype after many failed attempts.
Mr Chan thought of the idea after reading news reports on the fire at Grenfell Tower in London last year which killed many people.
He said more could be done to keep homes in Singapore safe from fire. "What I do will affect others. I hope that I will be a change that others will appreciate."
Another award recipient was Ms Amanda Neo Yan Lin, 19, from ITE College East, who was recognised for her achievements in sports and leadership. As volleyball captain, she led the ITE team to second place in the 2017 Volleyball Tournament.
Ms Neo, who has been playing volleyball since Secondary 1, no longer plays competitively due to a permanent knee injury. She hopes to be a professional coach or a physical education teacher.