A 31-year-old Singaporean man who had a long history with ending on the wrong side of the law recently graduated from the National University of Singapore (NUS) with a honors degree in social work.
In a touching Facebook post by NUS, Gary Lau recounted the rocky journey he went through before turning his life around and achieving academic success.
“To be able to graduate with not just an honours degree in social work, but also with highest distinction, when my past PSLE and N-level exam results were poor. It means a lot to me that I’ve made my mum and aunt proud,” he wrote.
Came from a troubled family
According to Lau, he was raised singlehandedly by his mother after she went through a divorce when he was only three-years-old.
After securing custody of Lau, she later found a boyfriend who unfortunately was physically abusive, leading to an end to the relationship when Lau was 12.
Throughout his childhood, Lau had a hard time studying and nearly dropped out of primary school and had to retake his Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE).
He was also bullied by his classmates and had little friends.
At the age of 13, Lau turned to smoking and joined a gang before tattooing his entire body and dropped out of school altogether a year later.
He also dabbled in gambling, alcohol consumption, and gang fights during this time as well.
Unable to rein in her son’s wild living, Lau’s mother reported him to the police by filing a Beyond Parental Control order.
He was then moved to Boys’ Town, an institution for troubled youths, and subsequently experienced an epiphany to get his life back in order.
Back to studies
During his time at National Service (NS), Lau decided to continue his education and carved out time to sit privately for his N-level exams, a national examination that secondary school students take during their fourth year.
He managed to ace the exams and found himself enrolling into the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), Nanyang Polytechnic, and later NUS.
However, he nearly couldn’t get pass the ITE hurdle after he was rejected due to his poor results.
“I didn’t know what to do. I asked my social worker to help me and she never gave up on me,” he told Straits Times (ST) in a 2015 interview.
Fortunately, ITE decided to give him a chance by offering him an interview while making him promise that he would make the most out of the opportunity.
Happy Children Happy Future
Having gone through a troubled childhood himself, Lau now want to help those who are experiencing similar situations with his social work degree.
As such, he launched a tuition centre named “Happy Children Happy Future” that gives free classes for disadvantaged children.
Lau also shared with ST in 2018 that based on his own experience, students who perform badly at school often have underlying issues that are not addressed by teachers.
My family and I faced many problems, but the main problem was I grew up in a single-parent household without supervision. I had no one to discipline me or guide me.
“Often, like me, they may fall behind not because they are unable to study, but because they are affected by many problems. Many of them lack self confidence and think they will never make it and just give up,” he said.