SOTY 2014: A platform for student talent

By Wong Yat-hei

School officials love to talk about their pupils who have won Student of the Year Awards because of the messages that inspire others

By Wong Yat-hei |

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Student of the Year Harry Tam (left) with his secondary school principal, Wong Chi-keung. Wong said Harry has a rare combination of gifts, both in academic and community contribution.

As part of Celebrating Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post/Hong Kong Jockey Club Student of the Year Awards is a prestigious annual secondary school competition that recognises not only the academic achievements of students, but also their skills in fields including sport, the arts and community contribution.

Schools that took part last year call the awards a great platform for students to display their talents.

Wong Chi-keung is the principal of Sing Yin Secondary School - which Harry Tam Pok-man, last year's Student of the Year, attended. "The award has many categories, and Harry was able to win the grand award because of his outstanding achievements not only in academics but also in his contribution to the community," he says.

Wong says it is an educator's responsibility to provide every student with a fair chance to excel. "Not everyone is going to win an award, but I think every student is talented and able to excel in things that they work hard at. My job as an educator is to help students fulfil their potential," he says.

Harry won several international prizes in physics, and is a keen contributor to the school and the community. Wong hopes his success inspires others. "Winning an award recognises great effort, but it is not the end. In fact, it is a good start for one to build on and to continue to work hard. I hope Harry can make use of his potential in physics to contribute to society," he says.

Michelle Ho Miu-chun, principal of Tuen Mun Catholic Secondary School, said she would continue to nominate students for the award after seeing one of the school's students - wheelchair foil and sabre fencer Jake Leung Siu-lun - named runner-up in the sportsperson category.

Leung, now studying for a degree in medical laboratory science at Polytechnic University, is an inspiring role model in Ho's eyes. "I have a deep admiration for Jake. He was a healthy boy, and then an illness made him wheelchair-bound, and he was not able to go to school for two years," she says.

When Jake left school because of his physical condition, he was in Form Four, preparing for the HKCEE. When he returned a couple of years later, he had to do the HKDSE, which was entirely new to him. "It never discouraged him; he kept working hard," says Ho.

Ho was most impressed with Jake's persistence in fencing. He refused to take subsidies from the school to take taxis from Tuen Mun to the Hong Kong Sports Institute in Sha Tin, insisting on getting there by himself using the MTR.

This year Tuen Mun Catholic Secondary School plans to nominate six students in the linguistics, community contribution, performing arts and sportsperson categories. "The award is an eye-opener for students," says Ho. "Participants need to go through several rounds of interviews. The interview panel is made up of respectable people in various fields, so students can learn a lot from interacting with them."