The South China Morning Post and the Hong Kong Jockey Club have joined hands to organise the Student of the Year Awards, which have come to be an opportunity to recognise top students for their hard work.
“The Hong Kong Jockey Club is once again delighted to be the sponsor for the Student of the Year Awards. At the Jockey Club, we believe that every young person has the potential to contribute to Hong Kong. Our goal is to unleash that potential and channel it for the benefit of all. This is why ‘Youth for Innovation’ is one of the key themes of the Club’s charity strategy. The Club aims to help our young people fulfil their potential, give back to the community and contribute to the betterment and progress of Hong Kong,” said Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, the Chief Executive Officer of the Hong Kong Jockey Club.
“One of the most commendable aspects of the Awards is that they don’t just recognise academic excellence, but reward many different aspects of talent, ability and commitment – a philosophy we’ve always adopted in our own Hong Kong Jockey Club Scholarship Scheme,” said Engelbrecht-Bresges at the Student of the Year 2014 awards ceremony.
What sets Student of the Year apart from other competitions is that it does not just recognise academic results. It rewards many different aspects of talent, such as performing arts, sports and contribution to the community.
Nine Form Four to Form Six students in seven different categories will be awarded: grand prize, community contributor, linguist, performing artist, visual artist, sportsperson and scientist & mathematician.
The Student of the Year Awards are recognised all over Hong Kong. In addition to the Hong Kong Jockey Club, the Education Bureau is a supporting organisation.
“Among the winners, some of them are outstanding at sports, visual arts and performing arts; some excel in languages, science and mathematics; while some are very much dedicated to serving our community. This is extremely important in the modern world,” said Eddie Ng Hak-kim, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Education, at the ceremony earlier this year.
“Every successful person needs to balance achieving academic excellence with developing lifelong interests and personal aspirations on the long learning journey,” said Ng.
The candidates “needed to show a positive attitude, which can be tough to do under all the stress and pressure of the interview panel,” said judge To Chung, director of Chi Heng Foundation.
Andy Ho Wing-cheong, from the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, was concerned about both leadership skills and community service. The students “should be smart but also have a strong sense of social responsibility,” he said.
Virginia Yip, a professor at Chinese University’s Department of Linguistics and Modern Languages, said the finalists showed strong leadership and the ability to make an impact with their words.
“Some contestants may not be from a privileged background, but they still stand out,” she said. “I think this can show other students that you don’t need to come from a certain background or certain school to achieve a high level.”
Cheung Hin-tat, head of Hong Kong Institute of Education’s Department of Linguistics and Modern Language Studies, said the self-introduction and Q&A were the most important. Unlike the speech, they could not be prepared in advance.
“In the public speech, there’s a lot of preparation beforehand and students might get help on that,” he said. “The other parts are more personal. It gives you an idea of how they think language is linked to their future development. I’m impressed by the finalists’ concern for society.”
Dr Kim Mak, executive director of corporate affairs at the Hong Kong Jockey Club, compared the competition to taking a snapshot: “These are rankings for this one moment. In a changed environment, any student could have easily been number one.”
“The winners today are role models for students,” said Cliff Buddle, SCMP Editor of Special Projects. “It’s easy to focus on getting good grades, getting into a good university, getting a good job. To handle those pressures while having such a commitment to community work is something we can all learn from.”
“Teachers must explain to students that science is not going to be a one-man-band effort,” said Allen Ma Kam-sing, CEO of Hong Kong Science & Technology Parks Corporation. “There will be cross-disciplinary research and people will converge into research teams.”
Designer at Chocolate Rain, Prudence Mak, said that the contestants’ drive was what caught her attention. “I love their vision towards their career,” she said. “They all have different dreams.”
Editor of SCMP magazine 48 Hours, Kevin Kwong, said the students were sure of their vision. “I think they are really articulate, they express their ideas really well,” he said.
Linda Yip, programme manager for the Hong Kong Arts Festival Society, was impressed by the creativity and technical skill shown by the contestants. “They surprised me with their choice of repertoire and how they structured their programme,” she said. “The students were creative and confident on stage, and are devoted to using their talents to contribute. These are the kind of people we need in our society!”
Karly Cox, deputy editor of Young Post, said some students struggled to talk about the theme of their work. “They are so passionate about their performing art, maybe they haven’t nailed down how they can use their skills to make a difference,” she said. “But some contestants have concrete plans.”
Deputy secretary general of the Sports Federation & Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, Kenneth Fok Kai-kong, said the candidates’ presentations clearly highlighted their long-term goals. “Even at a young age, they plan ahead,” he said.
The students have a bright future ahead of them, according to SCMP sports editor Noel Prentice. “They are the future of Hong Kong sport, they need a lot of guidance and investment,” said. “The government needs to nurture these talents and invest in them.”