|PHOTOS: Courtesy Of City College
Grace Heng battled all kinds of odds to ace her exams.
She may have spent many years completing her “O” levels, but Grace Heng shows us, through her outstanding results, that taking longer to get there is better than not getting there at all.
The 23-year old star student of City College’s 2009 batch of “O” level students proudly received her four distinctions this January, after a long, arduous journey that spanned several years.
Heng’s difficulties began in secondary school, when her parents went through a difficult divorce which involved long-drawn custody battles and fights for alimony and child support. The relationship between Heng and her parents worsened under the strain. Her father blamed her for all the problems and her mother did not want anything to do with the family. To make matters worse, they were struggling with finances.
Heng was unable to concentrate in school, and she developed a habit of playing truant. Eventually she was asked to leave school, and after an unsuccessful stint in another school, where she was defiant towards her teachers, Heng dropped out of the education system completely.
At this time, she was diagnosed with clinical depression and had to see a psychologist. As a result of the ordeal at home, she harbored deep resentment and was unable to cope with the situation.
Says Heng, “I remember that beneath the overwhelming sense of helplessness and lethargy, there was anger seething and raging within me.”
After three years, Heng made another attempt to achieve her goal of continuing her studies. At the age of 19, she enrolled to take her “N” level examinations, but gave up after two months as she had been away from it for such a long time. In 2008, she tried once again, this time enrolling into a private “O” level course. However, she failed the exams and found herself back where she started.
Despite facing continual obstacles, one after another, Heng refused to give up and enrolled one more time, this time into City College. She kept trying because “one day, I want to teach and be knee deep in childhood education. I’ve always wanted that. And in order to achieve that, I had to have the ‘O’ level certificate.”
At City College, Heng encountered a completely different experience from what she had gone through previously. She credits being at City College for helping her to overcome inertia, enabling her to adjust back to the education system and maximizing her potential.
According to her, “The atmosphere is just different. I felt this sense of acceptance not only from the teachers but from my schoolmates. I sense that the teachers want us to do well for our benefit and not because it would look good on their end-year report.”
Aside from the many “turnaround stories” credited to City College in its early days, the school has, over the years, displayed a trend of consistently producing strong academic results, a track record which not many private schools can speak of.
Aside from the atmosphere, the teachers in City College are known for helping students to believe in themselves and live up to their potential. For Heng, they certainly made a difference to her learning experience.
She said, “They’re patient and creative in the way they teach. They don’t give up when a student doesn’t understand what they’re teaching. Sometimes, I’ve seen them stay back beyond working hours to teach small groups of students who want or need extra practice.
“We love our teachers and we want to do well so as to not let them down.”
City College staff hold the belief that no matter what circumstance or problems a student faces, he or she deserves a chance to shine.
Heng has a word of encouragement for those who are facing overwhelming discouragement and obstacles, “It’s okay to try, and fail. The most important thing is to try again, no matter how many tries it takes to succeed. Because when you do succeed, that feeling of accomplishment is beyond description.”
In 2009, CHEC officially changed its name to City College, under City College Holdings Limited, as it moves towards becoming a full-fledged school. The school now offers three courses, spanning one, two and three years, and all leading up to the GCE “O” level examinations. For more informationon enrolment, go to www.citycollege.edu.sg.