Commissioner of Prisons, Mr Desmond Chin,
NYAA Council Chairman, Professor Leo Tan,
My parliamentary colleague, Mr Louis Ng
Members of the NYAA Board,
Award recipients and family members,
A very good morning.
- I am very happy to be here today, to join the celebrations and congratulate our National Youth Achievement Award (NYAA) participants on completing the very good NYAA programme.
The NYAA Programme
- The programme was first introduced in 2000 to youths at the Prison School in Kaki Bukit Centre. It was subsequently extended to the youths in Changi Women’s Prison and the Reformative Training Centre.
- The programme’s objectives remain important today, which is to encourage self-reliance, perseverance and a sense of responsibility in our young inmates.
- In 2017, about 115 youth offenders participated in NYAA. They were active in a wide range of activities which include community service, sports such as basketball and tchoukball, adventurous journeys and skills workshops.
- I was told that for some of them, it was their first experience doing community service – speaking to the elderly, interacting with them, and meeting them face to face. I think this was a very good opportunity and experience for them to realise that each of us have the capacity to give, no matter what our background is.
- Two key changes will be introduced to the NYAA programme in 2018. First, the cut-off age of the programme will be raised to 30 years old, from the original 25. This opens up the programme to more youths, and those who have achieved a ‘bronze’ or ‘silver’ will now have more time to aim towards the ‘gold’ award.
- Second, the ‘skills’ component will be removed as a requirement for the award, starting with the new batch of NYAA applicants in 2018. This is not because we are ‘relaxing’ the requirements. Instead, it is a shift as the NYAA Council recognises that the participants are already picking up new skills as they complete the tasks in the other components.
- More inmates will benefit from the NYAA programme.
“Catch Your Dreams, Change Your Destiny”
- This brings me to this year’s NYAA theme - “Catch Your Dreams, Change Your Destiny”. It is a very good theme, and it reminds us that it is possible to dream, and change our destiny. The best way to make your dream come true is to wake up, to work at it, to work hard, to follow your dreams and do your very best. Dream for the moon and you will land somewhere among the stars.
- Enjoy your precious youth. It is a wonderful time to be young. I met an NSF in my office yesterday, and he asked me for advice. And the advice I gave him was to ‘enjoy’ and do everything that you can. When I was in university, I told myself that ‘when you are young you have time but no money, but when you are an adult you have some money but no time’. So, do everything you can with your time, do the best you can – learn, make as many friends as possible, and explore. And everything will be fine if you put your heart and soul into something.
- So enjoy your precious youth. Find new experiences, whether it is participating in community service, trying a new sport, getting involved in an outdoor or adventurous activity. Through these experiences, you will discover what you are good at, and what you like to do, and what you can do better.
- One example is Jie Chuan. He mixed with bad company when he was 12 years old. He was involved in gangs and drugs, and was sent to the Reformative Training Centre. After his release he started to traffick drugs, and he was caught and slapped with a ten-year prison term. His family, especially his mother, visited him in prison, prompting him to reflect on his life – what he hoped to achieve, what are his dreams. He decided to change for good so that he would not disappoint his family again.
- So he enrolled in the Prison School; he came to prison with only a PSLE certificate and took his O-levels in the Prison School. He has done well, scoring distinctions in two subjects. But he did not stop there and he is now studying for his GCE A-levels exam.
- Last year, he received his NYAA ‘bronze’ award, and this year, he will be receiving the ‘silver’ award.
- All of you here have shown us what it means to change your destiny and to work towards realising your dream. It takes hard work and determination, and you have made progress. I hope you will continue to catch and fulfill your dreams.
Appreciation to the Family Members and NYAA Community Partners
- I would also like to take this opportunity to thank family members who are here today and have stood alongside and supported our NYAA participants. Your support and constant encouragement are important to their rehabilitation journey.
- Our community partners have also played a key role. By coming on-board, you have helped our NYAA recipients build a sense of self-worth and lead them to recognise that they too can contribute to society, regardless of their current circumstances or past actions.
- I would also like to thank the Singapore Adventurer’s club for organising adventure journeys for our NYAA participants over the years, and CARElderly for continually providing opportunities for our NYAA participants to develop organisational skills as they interact with elderly beneficiaries. Thank you to “70 times 7” for helping and supporting the NYAA recipients as they prepared for their community service at CARElderly Seniors Activity Centre.
- Congratulations to all award recipients. I wish you all the very best. Let me share a story. Last year, I met an NYAA recipient whom I had met before. She had been out and I thought she was doing well, but then she relapsed. I knew about it, and when I came here I met her again. When she saw me she told me, ‘I’m sorry, I’ve let you down’. I remember right on this stage, last year, I told her, ‘I have not given up, and neither should you’. So this is a message to all of you. Do not give up, continue to dream, and work towards your dream. As I said, the best way to achieve your dreams, is to wake up.
- Thank you.