Winning against the odds: 5 polytechnic graduates who pressed on despite adversity

Over two weeks until Thursday, more than 25,000 students are graduating from the five polytechnics. The Straits Times speaks to a graduate from each poly to find out how they pressed on despite obstacles.

He's over a decade older than coursemates

Mr Dominic Li is one of the top eight graduates from Singapore Polytechnic. ST PHOTO: SYAMIL SAPARI

Mr Dominic Li's warm and good-natured personality betrays little about the struggles he experienced in his earlier years.

When he was four, his mother left the family. He and his older sister were sent to live with different relatives, after their father turned to drinking and gambling. These took a toll on him as a child.

"I was emotionally unstable back then. I always questioned myself, 'Why don't I have a mum? How come other people have their families?'" said the 33-year-old.


Watching over dying mum amid final-year project

Ms Mahsuri Minhat, who graduated from Temasek Polytechnic with a diploma in apparel design and merchandising, became interested in fashion because of her mother, a housewife who loved to sew. Her mother suffered from breast cancer and died when Ms Mahsuri was in her final year. ST PHOTO: SYAMIL SAPARI

Three months ago, Ms Mahsuri Minhat was working towards finishing her final-year fashion project at Temasek Polytechnic.

She was doing one of the hardest things in her life at the same time - watching her mother die.

In the last two weeks of her mother's life, the 20-year-old - who was studying apparel design and merchandising - would sit by her mother's bed, drafting designs and sewing her garment for her project.


Autism doesn't slow her down

While initially disappointed at not being accepted for medicine, Ngee Ann Polytechnic graduate Andrea Chua now says there are "different ways to contribute to the field of medicine, such as through research". ST PHOTO: LEE JIA WEN

Autism has not stopped Miss Andrea Chua from pursuing her dream of working in the medical field.

The 20-year-old will graduate from Ngee Ann Polytechnic's School of Life Sciences and Chemical Technology on Wednesday with a diploma in biomedical science. She will graduate with a silver medal, meaning she is in the top 5 per cent of her cohort.

In her three years, she faced some difficulties because of her condition but persevered nonetheless. Due to the workload in the course syllabus, collaborative learning was vital for students to work together and learn more efficiently.


More than just tattoos up his sleeves

Nanyang Polytechnic graduate Gary Lau runs a non-profit organisation providing free tuition to disadvantaged children. ST PHOTO: SYAMIL SAPARI

His body is covered in tattoos, but Mr Gary Lau is not a gangster. At least, not anymore.

The 27-year-old, who graduated from Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) with a diploma in social sciences (social work), runs a non-profit organisation providing free tuition to disadvantaged children.

Called Happy Children Happy Future, it was started last year as part of his final-year project, and now has 90 volunteers helping 60 kids.


From indifference to ambition

When she was 16, Ms Tiffany Abrial Pereire's father and paternal grandmother died. "It really affected me, two funerals in the span of two weeks," said the Republic Polytechnic graduate. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

When Tiffany Abrial Pereire was 16, her father died of a leg infection and her paternal grandmother died soon after too.

"It really affected me, two funerals in the span of two weeks," said Ms Pereire, now 19, who added that her father's death was the most difficult time of her life.

Her father, who owned a transport business that ferried children from an international school to and from home, had injured his leg after tripping on a flight of stairs.


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