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Insomniac x David Hoe, youth leader

David Hoe is quite unlike the average undergraduate. Besides the typical academic commitment, his external positions as a youth leader, project director and deputy head of social causes necessitate a perpetual online presence that has him sending and replying emails late into the night. Gia Phua sits down with David for an informal session of sharing to learn more about why he does what he does, amidst his busy schedule.

It’s not hard to spot him in FASS.

Armed with a bright red kiddy-looking backpack and rocking the punk look with a single earring, David’s dress style is an unusual combination to don in the arts faculty. Answering the mystery behind his dressing, he quips sheepishly that it is a deliberate attempt to break down barriers with the many youths he works with, in hopes that they find him more approachable and relatable.

This first year undergraduate is a leadership developer, a motivational speaker for youths and is fiercely passionate about developing youths of the next generation. His inspiration to develop youths stemmed from his personal struggles with academics and a broken family.

Having lost his mother who was his sole supporter at the age of 12, and placed in the Normal Technical stream, David worked hard and emerged as the first Normal Technical student in Singapore to qualify for a junior college, and subsequently a local university. He was awarded the Lee Kuan Yew Award for being the most outstanding normal course student. “I’m very sure nobody in NUS can beat me with an aggregate of 110 for the PSLE,” he jokes fondly. Now, he is a proud member of the

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Chuan Thian Poh Leadership programme in NUS U-Town, which admits a small number of students annually, to groom them into community leaders.

Outside of school, David is the Deputy Head in United Nations Associations of Singapore (UNAS). His current project surrounds him closely with youths at risk. In the hope that these youths can discover their hidden talents and embrace an inner confidence in the pursuit of their dreams, he has designed a special education program that shifts focus away from the conventional aspect of academics. The “I Am Talented” program started its pilot phase in 2011 to help 90 selected Normal Stream students explore their talents at an earlier stage of their lives, by exposing them to areas such as photography, beat boxing, song writing, live telecasting and public speaking. His brainchild was well-received and so far has consolidated the support of four schools, extending its impact to more than 200 Normal Stream students.

Through David’s formative years, he has also seen youths grow evidently in their personal development, breaking free from destructive addictions such as smoking or courting bad vices. Nonetheless, he has had his fair share of struggles during the several moments in the reforming process when they gave up.

But you know what, I don’t give up on them. I’ll always persevere to sit through with them, help them discover the honest truths about themselves and the realities of the situations to the best of my abilities.

This undying passion drives David to help the youths discover their limitless potential. His quiet ambitions even extend to the eradicating of human exploitation in developing countries – he intends to do this by building schools to teach students English and vocational skills.

Certainly, such big ambitions may seem daunting along the way, but as the interview progresses, there is an air of confidence about David– not one that is inflated, but instead is deeply grounded, coupled with certainty – that will make things happen for Singapore. Speaking from a future that is

carved out in the area of building local social capital, he urges everyone to not just settle for a job, but to keep up a relentless search for one’s passion. Indeed, this is what will likely keep anyone going in the long run, just like it did for him.


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