Testimony from Saints who attended SAJC
Ng Yen Fang - Once a Saint always a Saint!!
Many of you must wonder what makes SAJC stand out from the rest of the junior colleges. To me, it is the Saints family spirit and this is why it continues to hold a special place in my heart. Despite not coming from one of the more prestigious secondary schools, I was never made to feel inferior and was always made to feel welcomed.
In SAJC, the teachers are extremely approachable and encouraging. Without their dedication, I would not have been able to pursue my dream as a litigation lawyer. This is also the place where I forged many friendships that I am sure will last for a lifetime.
I am proud to be part of the Saints family and I hope you will join us too.
Once a Saint always a Saint!!
Mr Chua Tiong Seng - Former SAJC Teacher
A note from Mr. Chua Tiong Seng, a former SAJC teacher who recently went overseas to further his studies...
I taught General Paper at SAJC for six years, leaving in 2012 to pursue a post-graduate course in Translation Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Over the course of six years, I have asked numerous students to tell me what the SAJC spirit is, but none of them could give me a clear definition. However, all of them inevitably say that they can identify with the college and find it to be a place where they can belong to.
Indeed, the SAJC spirit is one which is difficult to describe, even for a GP teacher. But I can certainly remember vividly the times when I felt it the most strongly. When the fresh JC1s, shy and reserved as they first stepped into the college grounds, take on the Saints identity unreservedly after a week of Orientation, shaking to the Mass Dance as if they have always been part of the Saints family. When the students eagerly link shoulders in anticipation for the College Hymn, finding comfort and reassurance in the simple fact that no matter how hard life can be as a JC student, they are all in this journey together, supporting one another. When the examination period draws near and the long row of consultation benches outside the Staff Room are full, forcing teachers to find their own secret spots (erm…within the school) to meet students who have questions and need help.
It is also not difficult for me to recall the moments when I felt immensely proud of our students. When the quiet girl sitting in a corner of the classroom transforms into an entirely different person on stage as a performer, displaying the result of months of discipline and hard work. When the boy who was always asking for a deadline extension for his essay assignments scored the winning goal on the field. When the disheartened student continues to try his best despite not making as much academic progress as he would have liked, only to obtain a set of results that he can be proud of for his A levels examinations. It would not be an exaggeration to say that our students do not leave the college empty-handed, and can look back fondly at what they have accomplished in their JC years.
It would be ridiculous for me to say that SAJC is the best junior college and you should definitely come here, but I do believe that SAJC has a lot to offer and it would be a shame if you don’t seriously consider it as a viable option. Don’t just listen to whatever people tell you, turn up for the SAJC Open House and witness the college spirit for yourself. And if you decide that the college is suitable for you, I am confident that you can always find a spot in SAJC where you can call it home.
Mr Chua Tiong Seng
Josef - A former Saint
I was a Saint who took the A Level Exams in 2010 and am now pursuing a double degree in Mechanical Engineering and Business Administration at NUS. To those of you thinking of which JC to apply for in JAE, I would like to strongly recommend SAJC. Looking back, this was the school that nurtured me both as a student and person through the abundant opportunities it offers its students.
The resilient learning environment provided by the tutors and their earnest help whenever needed are boosts to any student’s academic confidence, and in my opinion, are key fundamentals in an ideal junior college. Outside of the classroom, SAJC makes a sincere effort to invest in the personal growth and development of every student; it is subsequently up to the individual to make the most out of these opportunities constantly sought out and provided for us. With discipline and an attitude that strives to outperform, I am confident that any student of SAJC, at the end of two years, would not have had it any other way.
Lewis Low - Former Saint
It's been 10 years since I graduated from SAJC. Since then, I have done National Service, graduated from the NUS Law Faculty, got called to the Singapore Bar, practised law as a corporate lawyer, got married, switched jobs and am now working as Legal Counsel for the Ministry of Defence. Through all these changes, one of the things that has remained constant is the friends I had made in SAJC. In this regard, I must say that SAJC leave you with something more than just the lessons learnt in the classroom or exemplary grades for your A Level. All Saints would have their unique stories to share of their time in SAJC.
You may think that such an experience may be obtained at any other institution. However, without the right words to describe my truly memorable experience, I hope that this short write-up would be enough to tell you that SAJC is really something more. I would end off with this quote which greeted me and my classmates daily when we went to school - "No One Is Here By Chance". Indeed, if you do choose SAJC, remember that you are not there by chance. Up and On!
(Lewis Low is in the centre on both pictures attached.)
Principles For The Mature To Live By - by Revd. Joshua Shaam Sudharman
This is the transcript of a speech delivered by the Guest of Honour at SAJC's 33rd College Day on 16th July 2010 by Reverend Joshua Shaam Sudharman.
Reverend Joshua Sudharman was an old boy of St Andrew's. He is an Anglican clergyman with the Diocese of Singapore. He is currently serving as the Vicar at St John's - St Margaret's Church. Rev. Joshua spent 12 years as a student in St Andrew's - from Primary 1 to JC2 - during which time he served as School Captain, Rugby Vice-Captain and President of the Student Council.
After completing his degree in the University of Cambridge UK, he lectured in Physics at SAJC for almost 4 years before answering the call the full-time Christian ministry. He served as Associate Chaplain of SAJC during his tenure at Chapel of the Resurrection until 2006.
He holds a Master of Divinity degree from Trinity Theological College (Singapore). His areas of passion include enjoying the company of his family, writing songs, and supporting Tottenham Hotspur Football Club.
Good evening, Archbishop John Chew, Members of the BOG, Principal Mrs Lee, Staff, Parents, members of the Alumni, and last but not least, Honourable Saints.Thank you for this great honour to address you this evening. I am a pastor, and the life of a pastor is never boring. One young pastor was visiting an elderly lady, and she offered him a cup of coffee. While they chatted, he noticed a bowl of nuts beside his coffee and he helped himself to them. When he was down to the last one, he said to the lady, “I’m so sorry I’ve finished all the nuts and didn’t leave you any.” She replied, “It’s ok pastor, my teeth aren’t strong enough to chew them. In any case, I’ve already sucked all the chocolate off them.” I have titled my talk Principles For The Mature To Live By. I believe that one of the key objectives of education should be to raise the level of not just knowledge, but also maturity, of the students. And I have 3 principles I want to share with you today.
1. DON’T JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER
I almost didn’t make it to SAJC. When I was in Sec 4, there was a compulsory visit to SAJC for the entire Sec 4 batch of SAS. It was a sort of open house, and we were given guided tours around the facilities of the Malan Rd campus by the Student Councillors. Many of my fellow Sec 4’s were more interested in the female tour guides than viewing the campus. My best friend Choon Mong and I had earlier made up our minds that we were going to another JC, which I’ll leave unnamed.
I’m ashamed to say we laughed at the somewhat run-down condition of the decade-old SAJC campus and the unusual architecture. There were classrooms with one entire wall seemingly missing in what was called the B block. They had large aircon vent pipes that snaked everywhere along the ceiling, painted bright yellow, red and blue, screaming to be noticed. The paint on most of the walls was peeling or discoloured. The whole place looked run down, and we amused ourselves by making snide remarks about what we saw. It seemed that every corner we turned served only to confirm our decision not to go there.
The final part of the program involved sitting us down in a lecture theatre and having some of our seniors from SAS who had gone to SAJC to speak to us. I went in to that session thankful that I wasn’t going to SAJC, and hoping the session wouldn’t waste too much of my time. It turned out that the speakers were some of my friends from the SAS rugby team, among whom were Michael Palmer (yes the MP) and Chee Beng Teck. In less than 1 hour, something happened to me that I never expected, and which altered the course of my life. I can’t remember what they said specifically, but they talked about the Saints spirit, about loyalty, about family. I found myself going from ‘hmmphh’ to ‘hmmm’ to ‘woah’ to ‘wow’. These were not guys whom I hero-worshipped, and they’d never had that great an influence over me before, but for reasons I could not explain, what they said that day brought about a 180 degree change in my thinking within 1 hour.
By the end I was saying to myself, “What am I doing? I can’t go to that JC! I belong here! My blood is blue!”
As soon as I saw my buddy Choon Mong after the session, I announced to him, “Mong, I’ve decided I’m coming here.” Needless to say, he was shocked at my change of heart, and he waved goodbye to me. The talk hadn’t affected him enough to make him change his mind, but it turned me upside down. I was so firm about coming to SAJC at least for the first 3 months that even though my parents opposed my decision, I stood firm, and they relented. Looking back I understand that that was a moment of destiny. Now, looking back, I can tell you that my whole life pivoted on that 1 hour. It was through coming to SAJC that I started attending Chapel of the Resurrection. It was at Chapel of the Resurrection youth group that I first met a young girl called Diana Chan whom, many years later, I eventually fell in love with and married. It was Canon James Wong, my pastor in COR, who was instrumental in launching me into fulltime Christian ministry. So I’m not exaggerating when I say that my whole life would have been vastly different if not for that fateful talk by my seniors.
In my first 3 months in SAJC, not even for one millisecond did I ever regret my decision. I was in my element! I was home! I was hooked! So of course, I stayed on for the entire two years. The teachers and the students made it much more than a school. It was a family. I tell you, SAJC teachers have always been and still are the best that you’ll find anywhere. They do what they do with so much love. They sacrifice, they give, they teach, they scold, they cry, they laugh, they celebrate… all for the love of the students.
Later when I became a teacher myself, I was so inspired to be alongside my own former teachers: men and women of solid principle, worthy of honour, deserving of every ounce of respect and appreciation they received and more. (Yes, let’s applaud them!) And we students had so much fun together. During free periods or breaks, it was common to see our group gathered in the cafeteria singing songs from the 60’s, accompanied by a guitar that we borrowed from the PE department. We had rugby trainings that lasted so late till we could hardly see the ball, student council projects, camps, orientation… fantastic! Unforgettable! What is the point I’m making by sharing all these memories?
The point is Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover. Let me explain. I had judged SAJC by the appearance of the campus back then and thought it was not for me. But I was wrong. And once I’d come to the realisation that this was my home, I wasn’t adversely affected by the peeling paint or the garishly coloured pipes. It was quirky and unique and most importantly, it was my college.
I was even proud of being in the only college with 3-walled classrooms!
As I’ve sat on the interview panel for the Leong Jee Award for the past few years, I’ve noticed several of the students say a similar thing: “I didn’t choose SAJC as my first choice and I wasn’t happy that I was posted here. But after the first 3 months, I didn’t want to move because I was so at home. ”The principle of not judging a book by its cover has far reaching implications.
You can apply the principle in deciding where to further your education, in your career choices, and especially in your choice of life partner. It’s not the most physically attractive person that will promise you the happiest marriage.
Decide based on substance and character, not just packaging. Don’t let outward appearances and first impressions overly influence your assessment of something or someone. Society is getting shallower by the minute. We all gravitate towards fancy packaging. But in the key decisions of life, this can often prove to be our downfall. What I’m saying is that in making big decisions, probe deeper, get to know what’s underneath the exterior. Your eyes don’t tell you the whole truth. Heighten your powers of discernment.
In fact, this is the main objective for this period called youth – to gain discernment.
My second principle is.
2. DON’T ASSUME GIVING MAKES YOU POORER
We live in a post modern world, and one of the key tenets of postmodern thinking is ‘You are what you consume’. So what you eat, what you wear, where you stay, what you drive – all these supposedly define your identity. But while this world is acquiring more money in order to purchase more goods and more services, it doesn’t realise that it is actually getting poorer. Because there is a paradoxical law that it is violating. The law is this: It is more blessed to give than to receive.
We tend to think of resources as a zero sum game. If you gain, that means I lose. So if you gain money from me, or time from me, or effort from me, I must have lost these things. But that is a very myopic view. Based on this logic, we think that accumulation is the way to prosper. But actually it brings a form of death. Giving creates a flow. Outflow is accompanied by an inflow. And flow brings freshness and life. Let me illustrate this rather abstract concept. In the land of Israel there are two seas.
If you look at a map of Israel - there is the Sea of Galilee to the north and the Dead Sea to the south. The Jordan River (which flows from north to south) feeds into the northern end of the Sea of Galilee and continues out the southern end. It terminates in the Dead Sea which happens to have the lowest elevation on the surface of the earth – about 422 m below sea level! So water can flow towards the Dead Sea but not away from it.
Now the water of the Sea of Galilee is fresh and it thrives with aquatic life. You would think that since it is connected by the Jordan River to the Dead Sea, then that too must be fresh. But in fact, the Dead Sea is the saltiest sea in the world, 8.6 times saltier than the ocean. It is so salty that you can float without any effort. It is also too salty to sustain any life forms, hence its name. Why is this so? The Jordan River carries minerals as it flows. It carries them into the Sea of Galilee, and it carries them out of the Sea of Galilee. It also carries them into the Dead Sea, but not out of the Dead Sea. So these minerals are deposited in the Dead Sea and accumulate there. The water evaporates off the surface of the Dead Sea, leaving behind a higher and higher concentration of minerals.
These two seas are analogies for two types of people. The Sea of Galilee represents those who give, who contribute, who serve. As they give, they also receive. There is a flow. Their heart stays fresh and life abounds. The Dead Sea represents those who only consume, and don’t give. They take and take and hardly give. In a matter of time, there is no life in them. What does this mean for us? Well it means we don’t hold ourselves back from giving because we assume it makes us poorer.
Don’t hold back from being involved, being fully invested in whatever organisation or institution we go to. Be a contributor, not a consumer. Look for ways to serve and benefit others. In doing so, you stay fresh and alive. A visiting Bishop from South Africa who spoke at our church recently was sharing about his late wife who died from brain cancer. Despite her worsening condition over several years, which caused her enormous pain, headaches and discomfort, she committed herself to actively encouraging and helping others who were in similar conditions.
She confided in her husband one day saying, “The only time I’m not in pain is when I’m ministering to others.” She has since gone home to be with Jesus. But her words still hold tremendous power if you grasp their meaning. It was when she was focussed on others that she found true relief from her own suffering, that even medication could not bring about. She intimately understood the secret power of giving that consumer-minded people never experience. It’s not a zero sum game. When you give of your resources to help and touch another human being, you stumble upon hidden reservoirs of what you gave away, and you have no need to feel afraid.
Saints, take a two-footed jump into the world of servanthood. You will never regret it!
I want to take a moment to honour one of my inspirations who’s here tonight: Mr Yee Teck Peng, my rugby coach. Why is he so passionately in love with St Andrew’s? Why is his blood bluer than anybody else’s? It’s because for decades now, he’s kept on giving and giving and giving to the school. He holds nothing back. And I’m sure if he felt impoverished by his giving, he would have exhausted himself and run dry long ago… but no! People like him know the truth of the principle – that giving does not make you poorer. The rest of us look at him with a mixture of curiosity and envy – what makes this man tick? Why is he so full of joy in singing the college song? Now you know. It’s because he gives. (Yes, let’s applaud Mr Yee.) And you can do likewise wherever you go. Be fully invested.
As the college song’s chorus says, “Truest fame lies in high endeavour.”
My final principle is…
3. DON’T AVOID THINKING ABOUT HARSH REALITIES
King Solomon, as he reflected on his observations of life, said these surprising words: “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart.” (Ecc 7:2) It makes a good quote for a GP discussion, doesn’t it? In what way is it better to go to a house of mourning (meaning a funeral) than to go to a house of feasting (meaning a party)? Solomon explains it this way: because death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart.
Everyone has an appointment with death, sooner or later. The living, meaning us who are not dead yet, should think deeply about this inescapable fact. We should contemplate the implications of our death while we are living. But is that what most of us are doing? I daresay no, because if anyone is thinking about the subject of death, we regard them as being morbid, maybe suicidal. But you don’t have to be suicidal to think about your death. Solomon says that every living person should give some time – not all their time but at least some time – to think about the end of their own life.
Because when you do, questions start to arise in your mind. And these are good and important questions to ask ourselves. For example, Why must I die? Why was I born in the first place? Is there a purpose and meaning to my life? What happens to me after I die? We find these questions awkward and uncomfortable, so we avoid them by distracting ourselves.
If it’s not by attending parties with loud music and dancing and good food and drinks, we find other ways to occupy our minds. This little contraption, called a handphone or a smartphone, is a chief culprit of distraction. It’s not an iPhone, but this nifty piece of technology can do so many things! I can telephone, sms, email, surf the internet, play games, take photos and videos, use GPS to find my position on a map etc.
Incredible! I’m still waiting for the application which can make it function as a shaver as well! So if I have one of these irresistible contraptions, I have essentially allowed into my pocket and into my life many more ways and means by which to be distracted. I won’t be surprised if some of you are fiddling with your phones right now. With this, I can get so focused on the here and now that I leave myself no capacity to think about the distant future, and the implications of my mortality. Whenever we have a little free time, we don’t want to think about the harsh realities of life.
We want to de-stress ourselves, relax, kick back and do something mindless and fun. Nothing wrong with resting and having fun, but for many people it’s become a habit of avoiding deep and perplexing issues. But those who are mature make time to think about even these harsh realities of life, for it brings clarity of perspective that most other people simply lack. One young man I spoke to used to work as a lawyer. But one day one of his close friends and peers died in an accident. The experience of premature death hitting someone so close really shook him, and caused him to think very deeply about what his life was all about.
He came to a clearer understanding of his true direction in life, realised his current work pattern held little meaning for him, and made the courageous step of leaving the legal profession to work in a non-profit organisation helping children. Is he foolish to do so? Some may think he is, but he’s not bothered. He knows what he wants and where he’s heading. Trying to find the answers to these big questions by yourself is very hard, almost impossible, and I’m not suggesting that you can solve the mysteries of life by thinking about it over one afternoon.
Please take time to read, to discuss with others, to listen to talks. Whatever time you invest in these spiritual pursuits will be time well spent, because they enable you to have a clear vision of how you want to make your life count.
With such a vision, you can set yourself clear goals and begin to align every area of life such that it’s compatible with your overall direction.
So in conclusion, let me recap the three principles for the mature that we’ve looked at this evening. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Don’t assume giving makes you poorer. And don’t avoid thinking about harsh realities. These principles may not come naturally, but you can work at them, and they will lead you to maturity.
My sincere prayer for you is that each of you will come to exemplify these principles in your life, and you will uphold by your example the motto of our college: UP AND ON! Thank you.