SUSS gives 70 students awards, scholarships for resilience, making impact on community

[The Straits Times] SUSS gives 70 students awards, scholarships for resilience, making impact on community

SINGAPORE - While most of Mr Terence Koh’s classmates at the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) were worrying about exams and assignment deadlines in 2021, he was struggling to cope with the death of his newborn son.

His son, who was born prematurely, suffered complications and died a week after birth, leaving Mr Koh and his wife distraught.

“It was the lowest point of my life,” said the 35-year-old Bachelor of Sports and Physical Education student.

With school deadlines approaching, the former national sailor pushed on and managed to submit his assignments with the support of family, friends and the school.

“Life must go on, family must be supported, and two assignments had to be completed.”

On Friday, Mr Koh was among 70 students who received awards and scholarships from the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS). They are given to those who have shown resilience and made a social impact on the community during their course of study.

Mr Koh, now coach for the national sailing team, said that before his son’s death, his experience with resilience had mostly been centred around sporting challenges.

But the people around him have shed new light on his concept of resilience and helped him through the tough period, he added.

When the couple have work commitments, their parents help care for their first child, friends and colleagues provided a listening ear, and even their daughter’s pre-school teachers made sure she was not asked questions about her sibling.

“Little did each party know that their actions had a profound impression on me and my concept of resilience,” said Mr Koh.

“Now, resilience to me is not just my capacity to overcome hardships, but it encompasses the collective power of the community that can rally around us.”

SUSS president Cheong Hee Kiat said the awards are not the usual ones given to students for academic excellence, but they are given to recognise the recipients’ strength during personal hardships.

He said: “Receiving these goodwill gestures during their time of need will encourage our students to contribute back to the community with gratitude.”

Speaking to the students at the award ceremony, he said: “We not only want you to do well in your studies. We hope you will develop a deep gratitude for what opportunity, trust and support you are given, and pay it forward by serving those around you and someday, return as our donor.”

A team of 22 students was also among those lauded on Friday. Their project, which gets children to provide companionship to seniors, tackles social isolation among the elderly while helping children develop social skills.

The More We Get Together project was started in 2019 and organises monthly celebrations to bring together seniors from the Care Corner Active Ageing Centre and children from the New Life Childcare Centre.

The seniors and children make crafts together and play games to socialise and bond.

The SUSS students received the Provost 3H Fund - Community Impact Award, for their efforts in making a social and community impact.

Care Corner Senior Services assistant manager Edward Tang, who oversees the senior activity centre in Woodlands, where the project is run, said: “The young add vibrancy to the events, and our seniors enjoy the engagements with them.”

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit Singapore, the activities shifted online.

Mr Tang said: “It was not easy, but when we had our first online session, it was a heartwarming scene.

“The seniors saw familiar faces over the video-calling apps as students and children alike waved to them from the screen.

“It also spurred our seniors to adopt technology and smart devices more readily, a timely move in the pandemic to combat social isolation”.