SOTY 2017: How Best Devotion to School candidates are leaving behind lasting legacies at their schools

By Andrea Zavadszky

This year’s SOTY finalists are proof that school doesn’t have to be something to endure, but a community you can leave your mark on

By Andrea Zavadszky |

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The candidates in the Devotion to School category have each made lasting contributions to their school

There are many ways to stand out in school as a student, but selfless contribution to school life can be one of the most rewarding. Candidates vying for the Student of the Year (SOTY) – Best Devotion to School prize have shown enthusiasm and initiative in supporting their schools.

“The most important judging aspect was consistency and unselfishness in devoting their time and effort to help their school and schoolmates,” says Alex Ho, SCMP’s general manager (recruitment, circulation and syndication business) and one of the judges of the category. Ho hopes the students will continue to create an impact on society.

Yip Man-yee, 17, head prefect at St Paul’s Secondary School, has fulfilled an important role as the deputy head of the school’s IT prefects’ board, and coordinator of the new Bring Your Own Device school policy. She makes sure students use their own equipment, share their opinions with the teachers and help find solutions to problems.

“Last year there were many problems with the pilot scheme. For example, the lockers were too small and we were not allowed to use the computers or tablets during the lunch break,” says Man-yee, who is also president of the music society. “The school changed some of the policies, allowing wider use of the devices. So this year we can continue with the programme.”

Man-yee’s diverse skills were on full display when, just before a musical performance, the conductor was injured and she stepped in.

As the head prefect of St Joseph’s College, 18-year-old So Yin-hei led a team which prepared some videos on the importance of discipline. The school is close to the Peak tram, and one video explained to students how to behave in an area where there are lots of tourists. Another video focused on complaints by nearby residents about students who walk around with eyes fixed on their phones.

Yin-hei is also service director of the school’s social service group, which organises fundraising and other voluntary activities for students.

“When I was in Form One, the prefects helped me a lot; they were very nice to me and we were like friends. That’s why I joined the prefect board. Later, a prefect told me that he had followed my example and joined the prefect board. I was very happy when I heard that,” he says.

Chui Yee, from Jockey Club Ti-I College, also has several feathers in her cap. At 17, she is the captain of the school’s taekwondo club, team captain and a Hong Kong national player. She is also vice-captain and financial secretary of Blue House and leader of its cheerleading team.

As chairperson of the student union last year, she worked with the principal to improve the school environment and solve problems. Her biggest achievement is organising a Christmas ball for 300 senior students.

“It was difficult. Since this was the first one, there was no example to follow. But the reaction was great. This means they can have the ball this year as well,” she says.

While students give a lot to their schools, they also benefit by developing their communication, organisation and teamwork skills.

“By contributing to their schools, students gain a lot themselves, because they have a chance to grow,” says Terence Chang Cheuk-cheung, a SOTY judge and former headmaster of Diocesan Boys’ School. “Every school has a different culture, students have different personalities. There is no one way of doing things, but be genuine and do it out of your own passion.”

Winnie Yeung, head of school at Steam International Academy and a competition judge, says these students are very ambitious in a good way.

“They want to make an impact and leave a legacy in their school for the next generation of students,” she says.

“They have a lot of empathy and are very confident in expressing themselves. Empathy and confidence are a good combination to make a change.”

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

Edited by Charlotte Ames-Ettridge