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National Youth Achievement Award Ceremony 2023

Opening Speech by Mr Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth & Second Minister for Law at the National Youth Achievement Award Ceremony 2023 on 29 November 2023

Ms Shie Yong Lee, Commissioner of Prisons,

Mr Eugene Seah, National Youth Achievement Award Council Chairman,

Partners, award recipients and family members, ladies and gentlemen,

  1. Good afternoon. 
  2. I am honoured to be able to join you at the National Youth Achievement Award (NYAA) Ceremony 2023.
  3. We saw a fantastic video, one that showcased a range of activities. One of the participants said that all these activities give you a chance to be part of something better, and that was very meaningful. I am grateful that we have the opportunity to do this. 
  4. Today marks a special occasion for our award recipients and your family members, as we recognise your hard work, achievements and efforts to improve yourselves, so that you will be ready to give back to the community through the programme.   
  5. The NYAA programme challenges our youths to develop their physical fitness, social skills, and leadership abilities through community service. 
  6. Since it started in the year 2000, the NYAA programme in the Singapore Prison Service has grown significantly over the past two decades, where participants engage in acts of service, develop a sense of purpose, and give back to the community. 
  7. Over 2,000 participants have completed the programme so far, and this is testament to the strong efforts, focus and dedication of the NYAA Council, prison officers, volunteer organisations that support the programme, and most importantly, you – the participants. 
  8. This year, we celebrate the achievements of 89 youths, who have worked hard at becoming a better version of themselves and giving back to the community through acts of kindness and service. 
    • What you have accomplished includes making audio recordings of news articles for the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped, developing outdoor adventure skills like knot tying and shelter building, and taking on different roles in community service. 
  9. What’s most important is that each action, however big or small, is able to make a positive impact on the lives of others, and make you proud of what you have achieved. 
  10. You have shown us that regardless of one’s circumstances, everyone has the ability and choice to do good and engage in acts of kindness that can make a lasting difference to others. 
  11. This brings me to this year’s NYAA theme, which is “Inspiring Hope through Kindness”. The most important part of this theme is kindness. 
  12. First, kindness must begin with ourselves.
    • We should learn to be kind to ourselves and be willing to accept mistakes and failures in life, and bounce back stronger, in order to grow and improve.
    • Even if we don’t succeed at something at the start, the real ability and mark of a person is in our ability to try again until we get it right.
    • For example, at the outdoor adventure skills session, I understand some of you might not have been able to tie the knots correctly the first time. Despite those struggles, you pressed on and got it right eventually. 
  13. This was precisely the attitude that two of our award recipients have embodied and demonstrated through their academic pursuit. 
  14. David (not his real name) is one of our NYAA Gold Award recipients this year. As he had performed well throughout the programme, he was selected to share his NYAA experience at this year’s award ceremony.
    • Although David had some missteps earlier in life, he has not allowed his past to define him and he is currently pursuing his ‘A’ Levels at the TM1 Prison School. 
    • His decision to complete his ‘A’ Levels was to show his parents his determination and commitment to improving himself, and he wants to make them proud of him.  
  15. Cherry (not her real name) is also a recipient of the NYAA Gold Award today.
    • Although Cherry does not have any formal education in business, her passion and goal of opening her own café in the future has led her to pursue a NITEC in Business Skills.  
    • She has a can-do spirit and willingness to learn new skills, and this will certainly help her to overcome any challenges along the way. It’s not about what you know or not, it’s about the ability to take on new challenges regardless of the circumstances. 
  16. I wish David and Cherry all the best in their education journey. We all know that it will not be easy and there will be times when you will feel overwhelmed, under pressure and that the journey is long and tough. But I am confident that you will do your best, press on and make yourselves and your loved ones very proud of you. 
  17. Secondly, besides being kind to ourselves, we also need to be kind to those around us. 
    • There will always be someone around us who is less fortunate, less privileged and needs a bit more help and support than we do. Extending small acts of compassion and kindness to them can go a long way to making a deep and lasting impact on them. 
  18. I heard that the award recipients this year had participated in the National Library Board’s Read for Books campaign, where 264 books were donated to the beneficiaries. 
  19. You also hosted and engaged seniors from the Lions Befrienders in games and a sing-along session in institution A3 itself. 
  20. This shows that you have the power to impact and improve the lives of others. I hope that you will continue to find opportunities to volunteer and extend kindness to more of those in need. 
  21. I am glad that a few of our former inmates and NYAA recipients are also in attendance today to share about their past struggles, experiences and journeys. I believe their success stories will inspire you as they have been in your footsteps, walked the same journey, and overcome similar challenges.  
    • I encourage all of you to share your experiences and understand the importance of lifting others up, the power of second chances and creating a culture of support and understanding. 
  22. Finally, last but not least, we should be kind to our loved ones who have stood by us through the good and bad times. It takes a village to do anything, and I’m glad to see we do have that village celebrating with us today. We often find ourselves taking our loved ones for granted, despite the fact that they offer us the strongest support and strength. 
  23. I understand that you have prepared a card that you will be sharing with your loved ones during the visit segment later. 
    • I urge you to remember and uphold the commitments that you have written on those cards.
    • Remember what the journey has been, move away from the negative influences that had previously separated you from your loved ones.
    • By committing to stay on the right path, you can be sure that they will be there for you, through thick or thin, and you can be there too for your loved ones as a better father, mother, husband, wife, son, or daughter. 
  24. As I wrap up, I want to also thank the important supporters who have inspired our award recipients throughout this journey. 
    • I want to give a shoutout to our volunteers from the Singapore Adventurers’ Club, Be Kind SG, SportCares SG, and National Library Board. Your continued support and belief in the value and power of the programmes will make a difference. 
    • To the teachers from the Prison School, Captains of Lives, and family members, thank you for your unwavering dedication in standing by our youths and guiding them to be better versions of themselves and to dream big so that they can realise their aspirations. Your work is not easy, but it is extremely important and rewarding.
  25. Finally, I would like to congratulate all our award recipients for what you’ve achieved so far. I want you to also see this achievement as just a part of the journey and a milestone onto better things for yourselves. I hope you will continue to embrace opportunities to be kind, to give back to the community, and to truly be a force for good. 
    • For those interested in volunteering, Youth Corps Singapore offers a wide variety of meaningful volunteering opportunities, be it short-term, ad-hoc opportunities or more long-term, regular programmes depending on your interest.
    • For those seeking career advice and looking to grow and realise your career aspirations outside of prison, you can also check out Mentoring SG, a mentoring initiative that supports youth development. 
  26. You have proven, through your participation in the programme, that your past will not define you, and it is your choices and actions moving forward that will determine your future. Your words and actions have the power to create a ripple effect that can inspire hope and kindness far beyond what you can see. 
  27. All of us here today are proud of what you have accomplished for yourselves. I urge you to continue to remain steadfast, and most importantly, to believe in yourself and in what you can achieve once you have set your mind to doing so. 
  28. Thank you.
Last updated on 01 December 2023