Learning beyond the classroom alongside over 50 student leaders from different schools in NYC’s Our Singapore Leadership Programme
The students participated in the pilot run of the programme for Secondary 4 students from Dec 5 to 8.
Despite finishing their fourth year of secondary school, the learning journeys for 16-year-olds Ahmad Musaddiq Bin Samadi and Danelle Kaylee Khoo Bacomo are far from over.
Having the desire to continue developing their skills and worldview, Ahmad and Danelle eagerly seized the opportunity when selected to join the pilot run of a four-day-three-night residential programme.
There, they got to learn more about issues such as sustainability, innovation and the economy alongside 51 other student leaders. The participants were all from different schools.
This residential programme is an extension of the National Youth Council’s (NYC) Our Singapore Leadership Programme (OSLP), catered to Secondary 4 student leaders instead of the flagship programme meant for young adult leaders between the age of 25 to 35.
There have been five non-residential runs of OSLP from 2017 to 2022, one of which took place virtually during the pandemic.
The residential programme was jointly organised by NYC and the National Community Leadership Institute (NACLI), in partnership with the Ministry of Education (MOE).
Chung Cheng High (Main)’s Danelle and Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah’s Ahmad shared five takeaways after participating in the programme from Dec 5 to 8.
1. Differing opinions are based on past experiences
On the first day of the programme, participants took part in a multiculturalism workshop and had to discuss certain prompts with their watchmates and reach a consensus on social issues.
There, Ahmad and Danelle learnt that while everyone can hold different opinions on an issue, there are no right or wrong answers. Many of such perspectives are guided by lived experiences.
In Ahmad’s case, he participated in a discussion on how students do not have enough interactions with others from different races.
Having come from a Madrasah which consists primarily of Malay students, he agreed with the prompt.
However, his watchmates did not hold the same view, as their schools had a more diverse student body with different races.
Danelle, who also held different views from her watchmates, said that upon hearing where they came from, it made her realise just how much an individual’s perspective is influenced by past experiences.
“Thinking of differing views in this manner was a profound realisation for me, and made me reflect on what our different opinions display. Opinions do not just serve to prove a point, but also portrays experiences one has gone through,” she shared.
2. A sustainable lifestyle revolves around protecting current resources and creating new ones
The sustainability talks and workshops also led both student leaders to reflect on what a sustainable lifestyle means to them.
Before participating in the programme, Danelle thought Singapore’s focus on sustainability was largely on making efforts for the environment, with Singapore’s Green Plan 2030 revolving mainly around being energy-efficient and eco-friendly.
Having visited cultivated meat and seafood company ShiokMeats, Danelle realised that a sustainable lifestyle goes beyond preserving the resources we have left. It is also about finding new places to get more resources.
This taught her that fighting for change in terms of sustainability may not mean fighting for environmental change only. She believes that through splitting efforts between preserving and creating, Singapore takes another step closer to a sustainable future.
Meanwhile, Ahmad’s idea of a sustainable lifestyle leaned more towards protecting the environment through baby steps. He also pledged to start practising recycling at home, intending to lead by example and encourage his family members to start doing so too.
“Though it is an individual effort, I believe that every step matters. A sustainable lifestyle can really help the already crisis-laden environment, such as rising sea levels and deforestation,” he added.
He believes Singapore is on track to a sustainable future, and can include a few other efficient recycling processes, such as improving accessibility to amenities like E-waste bins.
“E-waste bins are usually placed in areas like community centres and malls. However, I think it would help if they were installed in void decks for residents as it would be convenient for those who live far away from their local community centre,” he explained.
3. Good international relations might help prevent price inflations
The residential programme also exposed the student leaders to topics on Singapore’s economy through company visits.
The participants paid a visit to Grab’s Headquarter. There, Senior Parliamentary Secretary Eric Chua shared about the Ukraine-Russia situation to demonstrate the impact of international relations on Singapore.
This helped Ahmad take on the perspective of a policy-maker. He better understood how well-crafted policies will help Singapore maintain good relations with other countries. These policies can in turn prevent the economy from being too negatively affected by conflicts.
Ahmad believes that if one knew about various international relations, they could better prepare for sudden changes in Singapore’s economy like price inflations as they would be aware of the factor causing the change before it even happens.
Ahmad also explained how strong international relations are also beneficial for Singapore’s economy.
“One way good relations help our economy is by ensuring a constant or new supply of goods is provided to Singapore, such that prices do not inflate since there are no shortages in the supply,” he elaborated.
4. Stepping out of your comfort zone to network can provide you with invaluable opportunities for self growth
After participating in the #straighttalk session with the panel of change-makers on the final day, Danelle realised that change starts from within.
For instance, taking the first step to network with others could provide one with more opportunities for self-growth.
Proving her point, she shared how she was presented an opportunity to bond with her watchmates when they camped on the rooftop of the former Singtel Transmitting Station down at Kranji on the second day.
She took a step out of her comfort zone and revealed her vulnerable side to her team despite meeting them just a day before. This was the catalyst for the development of friendships she would come to cherish greatly.
Networking with such like-minded people that day also led her to realise how many opportunities were available in Singapore that she simply did not take.
Danelle also reconsidered her plans after participating in the residential programme: “I now aim to join the Youth Network within my area, as well as tap out on the resources that are available for youths who have ideas on how they can make change.”
As for Ahmad, taking the first step to voice out his thoughts to others provided him with valuable takeaways.
He reflected on how he could contribute to his school with the soft skills he learnt from networking.
“To ensure our voices are heard, we must always take initiative and be confident in sharing our thoughts.
“I plan to apply these skills from the networking experiences to planning future leadership camps in school to bring leadership concepts to students in a more unique way,” he added.
5. Leaders should look out for others and be willing to make tradeoffs
Participating in the four-day-three-night programme meant the student participants had to be separated from their families for a period of time while managing challenging activities.
The experience taught Ahmad the importance of looking out for others. He believed that the concept of tradeoffs and taking care of each other is a quality a leader must have.
He raised the example of an icebreaker game played during the programme where his group had to work together and build two structures – a home and a military plane.
“As the game progressed and pieces started to run out, I realised the group needed to work across communities and not just among ourselves,” said Ahmad.
He added: “During the reflection session after the game, I saw how this game was meant to teach us the concept of tradeoffs, teamwork and the importance of looking out for one another.”
Through the game, Ahmad learned some of the qualities a leader should possess.
“With the ability to make tradeoffs, I feel like it can ease problem solving processes as I will be able to forgo something for the betterment of others.
“As some members of a team may fall behind when facing a shared problem, looking out for each other is also an important skill as it ensures no one is left behind.”
The residential programme was not a typical leadership camp for Ahmad, and he was grateful to be given the opportunity to participate in it.
Danelle also shared the sentiment, and added that the programme was effectively life-changing and provided its participants with opportunities one could not find anywhere else.
“To the student leaders who hope to attend future iterations of this programme, I hope that you will cherish the opportunity, and take away as much as I did,” she said.
For more information about other programmes and opportunities by the National Youth Council, click here.