MS AMANDA Chia, who is graduating from Singapore Polytechnic (SP) on Thursday, is on her way to becoming a doctor after a rocky start as a teenager.
In Secondary 2, she dropped out of the Express stream and was placed on the Normal (Academic) track after failing all her subjects. She picked up smoking and drinking and fell foul of the law for offences such as stealing hair dye from a supermarket.
But she made a turnaround and has been accepted this year by the National University of Singapore's Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine.
"I cried when I saw that I had been given a place. I did not expect it," said Ms Chia, 20, who is graduating from SP's nutrition, health and wellness course with a grade point average (GPA) of 3.97. Today, she will also receive the Toh Chin Chye Gold Medal, awarded to top SP students.
The thought of becoming a doctor never crossed her mind when she was younger.
"I mixed with bad company in school and never really attended classes in lower secondary," said the former Holy Innocents' High School student, whose father is a part-time electrician and mother a travel consultant.
It was after she was hauled to a police station one night for theft that things changed.
"My mother was there waiting for me, even though it was around 3am and she had to go overseas for work later that day," said Ms Chia, who has an older sister and a younger brother.
While she was studying nutrition, her interest in topics such as cell biology and immunology grew. "I realised I could help people beyond managing their diet and food, so I thought of venturing into medicine," she said.
Another SP student, Mr Loh Hong Rong, 19, is the first from his biotechnology course to get into the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine this year. "I hope that by studying medicine, I can impact others some day," said Mr Loh, who scored a near-perfect GPA of 3.98.