SOTY 2017: why the Community Contributor winner isn't judged only on what they've done

The category is there to remind young people of the significance of community, and how giving is as much of an accomplishment as getting

Nicola Chan |

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Scarlette Leung (centre) poses with 2016 Student of the Year winners.

Student of the Year (SOTY) – Community Contributor finalists need more than just good grades to make the cut – they need to show a deep desire to help those around them.

“I was really impressed by the students I interviewed last year for the Community Contributor award,” said Scarlette Leung. “They reached out to address the needs of the elderly, people living on the streets, and the environment.” The Executive Director of Corporate Planning, Communications and Membership at The Hong Kong Jockey Club has been on the judging panel of the Community Contributor category for two years, and feels that the SOTY awards are a tremendously worthwhile endeavour.

“We think it’s very important to support this competition, as it’s a way of highlighting the many achievements of students in Hong Kong,” said Leung. It is a way of celebrating all that the schools, teachers and parents in the city have done to make the candidates’ accomplishments possible, she added.

SOTY award finalists, she said, embody values such as leadership, integrity, continuous development, and the desire to serve the community.

“We must all constantly strive to achieve [this], and to develop ourselves – but above all to do this with a purpose, which is ultimately to give back to the community,” she said.

This year, Leung said she is looking forward to meeting more inspirational students; those who are both self-aware and socially aware. “Knowing your own strengths and weaknesses helps you to empathise with others, and helps put you in a position to help them,” she said. “When I’m talking to candidates I want to know not only what they’ve done, but why they’ve done it. [I want to know] what challenges they’ve faced, and what they’ve done to overcome them.” Students, she added, should always be “learning even as they are contributing”, but most important of all, they should genuinely love what they do.

“Think carefully about what makes you feel so passionate [about] ... and how you will express that to the judging panel.”

The Community Contributor judge said the category is there to remind young people of the significance of community, and how giving to others is as much of an accomplishment as getting high marks in an exam.

“It’s a lesson we all learn at some stage – that we should give as well as receive – and I think this award helps signal that in a very clear way,” she said. “I hope the award will show people that engaging with the community can be a very rewarding experience, and its impact can last a lifetime.”

For readers who would like to get involved in community projects, Leung said it is best if they start with something that is close to their hearts.

“Start with a project that you feel passionate about, and is personally meaningful to you,” she said. “Don’t worry if you don’t have any particular skills. If you’re enthusiastic, then you’ll learn as you go along. But you must be fully committed, and be a responsible volunteer who wishes to give back to the community. People are depending on you, so you can’t afford to be half-hearted.”

Equally important, she added, is being punctual, prepared, and responsible.

If students can lay claim to all of these traits, then they will feel like they have had a very rewarding experience, and they will earn the respect of those around them.

The Student of the Year Awards competition is organised by South China Morning Post and Young Post and sponsored by The Hong Kong Jockey Club.

Edited by Ginny Wong