As good as it gets

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 March, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 March, 2002, 12:00am

ONE LOOK at Jolie Chow Mei-kwan, this year's South China Morning Post Student of the Year, and you are infected by her warm smile. But there is something else - her confidence.

Part of this comes from her multiple abilities. Since primary school, Mei-kwan, 17, has been scooping up awards for dancing, debating, public speaking and music competitions.

Also a straight-A student and committed volunteer worker, her sense of commitment and compassion helped her win this year's competition.

Luck is one of the secrets of her success, says the sixth former from St Paul's Convent School. 'I've been very lucky to have skilful teachers, all top in their fields. Without them I wouldn't have these qualities.'

The other key is enjoyment.

'I enjoy communicating with people. Dancing is the use of physical language to tell a story. Communication in music is the use of tunes. In speech it is the intonation and facial expression. Because I enjoy all these, I want to do well.'

It's possible Mei-kwan was born with some of her talents - as a toddler she would swirl around to music - but she stressed that persistence and focus are more important.

'When I first started dancing my body ached all over. But with persistence, I survived and things got much better.'

Wise time management is crucial, she added. 'You have to use your time efficiently. As long as you are focused on everything you do, be it study or play, you get greater output. In this way it is possible to have more than 24 hours in a day.'

Gifted as Mei-kwan is, however, she has experienced moments of fear and despair, and once considered backing out of a competition because of a lack of confidence.

Another test of her inner strength was the HKCEE last year, which put tremendous pressure on her.

'Sometimes I couldn't sleep. Sometimes I woke up in the middle of the night with a start. Luckily my mother is always there for me. She could not help me academically, but her support meant a lot. We talked and shared my stress. She made sure I ate and rested.'

Friends have seen Mei-kwan through tough and busy times, either by helping her solve her problems or simply by being there.

With a supportive family, teachers and friends, and a host of talents and awards, it seems as if Mei-kwan has everything. Does she think anything is missing in her life?

'A bit more of everything,' she says, laughing. 'There's nothing I need, but there is this sense of lacking in everything. I should be able to learn more.

'Through activities outside of school, I realise that there's a huge world out there with a lot of bright people. I think I can, and should, do more.'