Have you heard of Gary Lau? No? But you should be soon, as he’s likely to be used as an example to showcase how forgiving our society is to delinquents, so it certainly wouldn’t be surprising if he was awarded Singaporean of the Year in 2023.
The 31-year-old just graduated from the National University of Singapore with an honours degree in social work.
In a Facebook post by NUS, Lau said “NUS wasn’t easy for me because of my background.
“I came from a broken family and it’s unbelievable when I think about how far I’ve come – 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.”
And the post has gone viral, with well over 1.1k shares now.
His filial piety also puts one to shame but his grit truly causes one to re-evaluate one’s entire life.
So, what makes this youth so special?
Lau grew up in a a single-parent household after his parents divorced when he was three years old. His mother took custody of him and later had a boyfriend, but was physically abused, leading to a break-up when Lau was 12.
Not a social animal, Lau was bullied in school and had no friends. Never the stellar student either, he almost dropped out of primary school and had to retake his Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE).
He then joined a gang at 13 and got his first tattoo at 14, before dropped out of school. By this point during his secondary school years, Lau was also gambling, consuming alcohol, and participating in gang fights. At her wit’s ends, his mother reported him to the police by filing for a Beyond Parental Control order leading to his prolonged stays at Boys Town and Boys Home.
While seemingly on a road with no recourse, after a stint in Boys Town, Lau vowed to change his life.
During his national service, Lau decided to continue with his education and sat for his N-level exams privately. He then made it to the Institute of Technical Education, Nanyang Polytechnic and, eventually, NUS.
His degree in social work stems from his troubled youth and desire to help others.
Ups and Downs
However, this road was not always smooth-saling.
Lau almost could not enter ITE initially as they rejected him because of his poor results.
Lau said, “I didn’t know what to do. I asked my social worker to help me and she never gave up on me.”
Fortunately getting a chance to prove his mettle, Lau impressed the school personnel during an interview, where he promised to make good with the opportunity and do well. This led to his eventual acceptance: the first step to his success.
According to the NUS Facebook post, “Gary looks forward to working in the social work sector and is confident his personal experiences and NUS training will benefit his future clients.”
Before graduating, Gary had already started a free tuition service, Happy Children Happy Future, for disadvantaged children. Following his graduation, he will surely continue to help other young people from difficult backgrounds.
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