Published: 27 April 2017
Commissioner of Prisons, Mr Desmond Chin,
NYAA Council Chairman, Professor Leo Tan,
Award recipients and family members,
1. I am very happy to be here today, both as Parliamentary Secretary for Ministry of Home Affairs as well as a National Youth Achievement Award (NYAA) board member. It is a pleasure and a very fulfilling task, and I have enjoyed my time here. I want to say a few things and share a few stories.
Background of NYAA
2. The NYAA is a meaningful way for us to accord our recipients the recognition and encouragement that they deserve in their journey of personal growth and resilience. Introduced in 2000, the NYAA programme was first conducted within the Prison School's Kaki Bukit Centre. It was subsequently extended to young offenders in the Reformative Training Centre in 2001, and to inmates in Changi Women's Prison in 2002.
3. NYAA has helped many youth offenders inculcate positive values such as self-reliance, discipline and perseverance. Over the past 17 years, over 1,500 inmates aged between 14 and 25 have benefited from the programme.
4. Each year, the NYAA recognises outstanding young leaders, who go the extra mile to serve the community, and to make an impact on those they serve. I am heartened to see the steady increase in the number of recipients over the years. This year, we have a bumper crop of 145 recipients, which is the highest number of recipients since the awards started. If you compare this to the 96 recipients in 2015, it represents a 51% increase in the last two years!
5. The theme for this year's NYAA is "Soaring Higher". What does it mean to be soaring higher? Simply put, it means to excel, and be the best that you can be. That is exactly what our award recipients have done. They have used their skills, time and passion to contribute to the community. For example, they have displayed a sense of social responsibility and creativity by organising activities for senior citizens from the CARElderly Seniors Activity Centre. Some of them even went through entrepreneurship training conducted by the Halogen Foundation to sharpen their business acumen. Others went through physical training conducted by the Singapore Adventurers' Club to test and stretch their endurance limits.
6. First is the NYAA story. NYAA has a remarkable story, as what you've seen just now, they inspire youths and engage in activities that are meaningful and rewarding. Over the years, the NYAA has touched the lives of many youths. This is a commendable effort by Mr James Soh, Executive Director of NYAA Council, Professor Leo Tan, Chairman of NYAA Council, Ms Aileen Yap, Deputy Executive Director of NYAA Council, and many others. Rehabilitation is a journey – I'm very happy that the two gold award recipients have had a remarkable journey. Let me share their stories.
7. Kayla and Daniel both received the Silver award last year and they went on further to set their sights higher. Their hard work and effort for their Residential Project component in the NYAA, has paid off, and they are being awarded with the Gold award today.
8. For Kayla and Daniel – I understand that both of you are taking your GCE 'A' levels this year. All the very best to you and good luck. Despite the heavy load, they did not compromise on the quality of their projects. Both were determined to make a significant difference in the lives of others. Kayla's project, for example, was a handcrafted artistic compilation of stories and quotes which inspire change and give hope to others. We all deserve a fresh start and we should start somewhere, especially for young people like you. I'm also very happy that your parents are here today to give support.
9. With help from Prison officers, Kayla collated stories and words of advice from fellow inmates and pieced it together with the resources provided. At Kayla's request, her artwork will be donated to the Singapore Girls' Home, where she hopes that the meaningful messages of change can be passed on. This is wonderful because your experience will resonate better with people and lend more weight to the messages. Thank you Kayla, for your initiative and willingness to share your stories with those at the Singapore Girls' Home, and for striving and attaining the Gold award today.
10. For Daniel, you have produced a video to convey that violence should never be a means to resolving problems in any situation. I understand that you wrote the script from scratch and got help from fellow inmates to be actors. Aside from being the screenwriter, you also directed, produced and edited the video, using the skills picked up through the NYAA programme. It is an impactful video that will be shown to all Reformative Trainees at Tanah Merah Prison. It is important that we share this message on the futility of violence. I hope that in the future, you can go on to produce good videos and we hope to see more of your works.
11. Kayla and Daniel have shown us what it means to soar high, overcome your difficulties, obstacles and the past to go on and achieve, to be the best that you can be. This is what the NYAA is about. To encourage you to rebuild your lives and not be discouraged by whatever baggage you have in the past. I hope and wish you the very best in your journey.
Support from Family and Community Partners
12. I would also like to thank the Singapore Prison Service. They have made a lot of effort to facilitate and organise adventurous journeys within these constraints. They have done a lot, and I understand that they have supported Kayla, Daniel, many others and all of you today in your projects. I also wanted to give special thanks to all parents for being here today.
13. Thank you very much and congratulations to our award recipients. No matter what your personal circumstances may be, with positive goals, determination and the right attitude, you can accomplish many things in life.