It all began with a conversation with one of my friends during my first semester at Republic Polytechnic in April 2019. While stuffing my face with the school’s well-known Nasi Lemak, I debated my options as to which Interest Group (IG) I should join.
Initially, I have to admit, the National Youth Achievement Award (NYAA) programme was not among the many options I had on my list. However, after taking a look through what the programme could offer during our yearly Co-Curricular Activity (CCA) Fiesta, I was hooked.
The premier youth development programme was officially launched on May 9, 1992 by Mr Wee Kim Wee, then President of the Republic of Singapore. The programme offers youths aged 13 to 30 an opportunity to achieve a Bronze, Silver, or Gold award. Furthermore, it aims to encourage these youths to challenge themselves, forge strong bonds, and build life-long skills along the way.
To achieve an award, participants must complete a certain number of hours for four different components within the programme. The components are: Service Learning, Outdoor Appreciation, Healthy Living, and Community Leadership Initiative.
On the day of registration, I thought that if I was going to join this programme, why not challenge myself to achieve the highest award there is? Thus, I decided to sign up for the Gold award. I believe that that was the best decision I have ever made.
For each award category, there is a minimum duration that the components must be completed by. For the Gold award, I had to complete the programme within the minimum duration of 18 months.
TIME MANAGEMENT IS KEY
The first challenge that I stumbled across was planning my time out wisely. I was worried that I might neglect my studies if I were to focus too much of my time on activities that I had signed up for, especially since I had to do this within the minimum duration of 18 months to complete all of the components. Thus, I decided to invest in a planner.
Every weekend, I would take an hour out of my busy schedule to plan out the activities which I would need to complete the following week. I made sure to dedicate time to my studies first, and then proceeded to set aside the remaining hours for events, camps, and personal time.
There have been instances where I had to sacrifice some of my time for other projects that came in unannounced. This often led to me reducing the time that I would have previously distributed for certain events. Eventually, I learnt that this was completely normal.
The main purpose of time management is just to ensure that one sets out their time equally for each activity or component in their lives. It enables us to get more and better work done in less time. This does not mean everything has to be set in stone, and I have learnt how to be flexible over time.
MAKING THE BEST OUT OF IT
Admittedly, there were times when I felt like giving up. I recall an incredibly overwhelming period where although I had examinations going on, I was still tasked to organise a camp within the same week.
Initially, I wanted to drop the event and focus more on my examinations instead. However, I soon came to the realisation that if I were to do just that, all of my hard work in planning out the camp activities for the past few months would go to waste. So, I convinced myself to persevere and press on.
It can be very easy to lose motivation. To avoid feeling burnt out, I made sure that any activity which I chose to partake in felt enjoyable. For instance, for the Outdoor Appreciation component, I decided to rope my friends in to check out the parks around Singapore.
Together, we managed to take photographs and understand the history and significance of each park, appreciating it a little more along the way. On top of that, I would blast out all my favourite songs in order to motivate me throughout my exercise routine and complete the Healthy Living component.
Spicing up these components by inviting my loved ones or incorporating some of my hobbies with these activities have definitely helped me better enjoy my experience in the NYAA programme. Sometimes, by having someone else partake in these activities with you, you’ll be able to hear their thoughts and learn more along the way.
The NYAA programme has been the highlight of my tertiary education. Not only have I made sweet memories, forged stronger bonds, and made new connections, but I have also taken away plenty of lessons and useful skills in the process.
After 18 eventful months, I felt reborn. I was more confident in myself as an individual as compared to before. Now, I am able to step out of my comfort zone and seize opportunities that would broaden my horizons. I grew emotionally, physically, and mentally. In addition, I learnt to appreciate all the little things that I have around me and look at the world in a different light.
I would have not been able to complete this programme without the help of my facilitators, family and loved ones. Their constant support and optimism have always played a huge part in motivating me to do my best throughout this programme.
If there was a chance for me to turn back time and experience the NYAA programme all over again, I would do it in a heartbeat.