SOTY 2014: Community Contributor award candidates need to go that extra mile

By Young Wang

It takes special dedication to be named South China Morning Post Student of the Year - Community Contributor

By Young Wang |

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Dr Kim Mak (left) and Cliff Buddle are the judges to impress in the Student of the Year - Community Contributor award.

Many students are trying to build a better Hong Kong, but to bring home the Student of the Year - Community Contributor award, what do judges value the most?

The judges for the award, Dr Kim K. W. Mak and Cliff Buddle, both agree: it's passion. "Passion is something which comes through during the judging process. Some students demonstrate a burning desire to help individuals and the broader community," says Buddle. His fellow judge Mak adds: "The people who make the most meaningful contributions to the community don't just do it because it's useful to put it on their university application, but because they have a genuine concern for others, enhancing the quality of life in the community."

Buddle, South China Morning Post's editor, Special Projects, and Mak, Executive Director of Corporate Affairs of The Hong Kong Jockey Club, were both on the judging panel for the same category last year.

Buddle was impressed by the level of commitment shown by last year's contestants, and their understanding of Hong Kong's complex social issues.

According to Mak, the students they saw "cared deeply about the needs of the disadvantaged in the community, and issues that would affect future generations like climate change or heritage conservation".

He's expecting to see some very strong candidates again this time, which will make it hard to pick a winner.

"We will be looking especially for students who have gone the extra mile to help others, or perhaps have shown initiative," he says. Lai Yuet-chi, from Yan Oi Tong Tin Ka Ping Secondary School, who won last year's Community Contributor award, is a good example.

"She quite literally went the extra mile by trekking to the North Pole," Mak recalls.

After returning to Hong Kong, Lai used her experience and knowledge to set up a student group to promote environmental awareness.

"But you don't have to leave Hong Kong to stand out from other contestants - what matters is how much your efforts achieve," Mak says.

It will be difficult to choose a winner in such a challenging category, Buddle says. "There are many bright students in Hong Kong with strong academic records, but to balance school work with so many hours of voluntary work is very difficult to achieve," he says, adding that the winner will be "someone who can demonstrate that they have made a big difference to people's lives".

Buddle says shortlisted candidates shouldn't stress out about the interview. "Relax and make sure you show your full potential to the judges," he explains.

Mak also feels that interviews can be scary, but the enthusiasm the students show for what they do, and their understanding of the different challenges facing society, will count more than a confident, polished presentation.

There are no losers, he says. "Everyone who makes the shortlist will have already distinguished themselves in their contribution to the community - and learned a lot from participating in this excellent contest."