I feel a sense of achievement that I can make an impact in someone's life.
Discover SIM GE Fiona Toh, 24, has a mission in life - to help youths who are at risk of falling into bad company. It is the motivation that drives her to take up Psychology during her polytechnic days and now at SIM where she is in her third year at Buffalo’s BA (Psychology) programme. At-risk youths comprise a broad category starting at age 13 or 14 to early adulthood, says Fiona. They include those who are charged in court to those who have been referred to the police by their school or parents. Fiona recalls how she helps out with such a group who have to serve a certain number of hours doing community service. Some of the kids were indifferent or even hostile but after spending 14 weeks with them, she saw a change in their attitude. “To be able to see how they changed is what motivates me,” says Fiona. “I feel a sense of achievement that I can make an impact on someone’s life.” Even in Secondary School, Fiona was active in helping other young people. She is currently a voluntary Cadet Inspector in Nan Hua High School’s police cadet unit where she mentors new student inspectors. But Fiona realises too that to be more effective in her social work, she needs a solid foundation in understanding human behaviour; hence her enrolment at Buffalo. She chooses Buffalo because the American style of education provides her with an interactive educational experience that requires students to understand, reflect and discuss modules. As Buffalo’s psychology programme is mostly conducted by overseas lecturers, Fiona feels that she has gained diverse perspectives about psychology now. The curriculum has not only increased her awareness of psychology, but has also made her education a more holistic one. After obtaining her Bachelors, Fiona plans to work as a probation officer in the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF). Even if that plan fails, her passion to work with delinquent youths would continue in other organisations. In the longer term, however, she hopes to continue her education by obtaining a Masters in Counselling. “Counselling is a vital communication skill in social work,” says Fiona, who is a very people-oriented person. As an SIM GE scholar, she’s also involved with the Scholars’ Network events. For instance, during the Chinese New Year season (2013), Fiona and the other scholars distributed goodies and food packets to poor families in Tiong Bahru estate. She observed that currently there is an increase in the number of young people who are involved in voluntary community work. “Initially some of them may be indifferent to doing good, but once they are in it, and they received positive feedback, they become encouraged to continue on in such work. This creates a virtuous cycle (one good thing leads to another).” Recognising the utmost importance of a strong academic foundation, she adds, “With the years of struggling and battling with thick stack of notes and textbooks, I finally understood one thing. Many have said that studies are not everything, yet in my opinion, it is the start of something, the root of everything, and the only guarantor that you will not be left with nothing later in life.” - Interviewed and written by student writer Esther Seah Huilin, 21, second-year student with the State University of New York at Buffalo’s BA (Sociology & Communication) programme. The story is published in VIBES March 2013, and posted online in March 2013, updated December 2013. Fiona believes strongly that studies are the only guarantee that you will not be left with nothing