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Conversation with Our President’s Scholar 2021 - Miss Ang Zyn Yee

Written by: Tan Xuanmin (21S78)

Photo by: Ang Zyn Yee

Zyn Yee in the Navy

On 12th August 2021, scrolling through Instagram, President Halimah Yacob’s latest post popped up. Wonderful news. Lieutenant Ang Zyn Yee, former student of Hwa Chong Institution, has been awarded the most prestigious award of all - the President’s Scholarship. Here, the school would like to take this opportunity to formally congratulate Zyn Yee once again! Having spent a year in the Navy after completing her GCE A-Level examinations, she has just started her undergraduate studies at Brown University in the United States of America, Rhode Island. She shared that “[…] after University, (she) will come home to Singapore and continue to serve in the Navy.”

One might expect Zyn Yee to keep to formalities during the interview and share stories of only her grand achievements. Rather, Zyn Yee was outspoken and friendly, with an air of confidence as she spoke. Zyn Yee spearheaded Singapore’s nation-wide environment initiative - StrawFreeSG. Later, in Officer Cadet School, she also became the recipient of the Sword of Honour, which is given to the best trainee in each batch. You may now wonder: How did she come so far? How does she feel about receiving the President’s Scholarship?

Taking us back to when she was a J1 student in Hwa Chong, Zyn Yee shared that her journey with StrawFreeSG started in April 2018. Inspired to make a difference to the inadequate level of environmental consciousness in Singapore, Zyn Yee wanted to reach out to various organisations across Singapore to achieve tangible outcomes for the betterment of the environment.

Zyn Yee's Initiatives for StrawFreeSG

At first, Zyn Yee doubted the success of her efforts, but she pressed on. She wrote to newspapers and was featured in magazines. She made posters and stickers, and even started a petition in Changi Airport to go straw-free, which secured over 31,000 signatures. She sent numerous emails to eateries across Singapore, though typically receiving only one reply out of the ten she sent.

Then, 30th May 2018, The Straits Times featured her work. She was elated and garnered more support as her initiative, as she describes, “felt more legitimate”. Eventually, her campaign not only reached major eateries, like 4Fingers, but also extended to Primary and Secondary schools, where she was invited to deliver talks in urging students to participate in this movement. Zyn Yee reminisced for a moment before continuing, “It is not easy giving public speeches […]. I stepped out of my comfort zone […]. It was a journey of growth and maturity”.

Why did she join the Navy? Zyn Yee participated in the MINDEF experiential camp during scholarship season and what she got out of was beyond her imagination. “Together with people who will go through hell and high water with you, we go out there and we defend the people we love”, Zyn Yee said about the camaraderie in the armed forces. The challenging but exciting job scope, and environment where she could remain athletic — expected of a former Captain of the Girls’ Touch Rugby team in Hwa Chong — drew her into the career. Furthermore, she enjoyed observing the diplomatic relationships between countries, which set her mind to contribute to Singapore’s maritime security.

President Halimah Yacob's Instagram Post (Zyn Yee at bottom right)

“The President’s Scholarship is a testament of the love and support I’ve been shown all these years. Family, friends, teachers and the navy”, Zyn Yee said when asked about how it feels receiving the President’s Scholarship. She shares that it is very humbling, “(This award) affirms how I’ve spent my last 20 years, what’s important is to look at the next 20 years […]”. Zyn Yee reaffirmed her conviction by striving to be a more competent officer in the future, able to influence the people under her.

For her juniors in Hwa Chong, Zyn Yee said, “Don’t be disheartened if academically, you are not where you want to be. […] It is the discipline, resilience and drive that will arise from the experience.” To those who dream of doing much more, “There is a time for everything […] There is a need to prioritise your commitments. […] Try everything that you want to do and never did before. Don’t be afraid to meet new people.”

Lastly, Zyn Yee shared why Hwa Chong was crucial in her journey, “Hwa Chong values success in all forms. I wouldn’t be able to do what I did if I wasn’t in Hwa Chong. Dr Melvin Lim, Deputy Principal/Student Development, would talk to me about StrawFreeSG and my teachers would be very willing to help me with my studies whilst supporting my initiative.”

Ending off, she said, “What you want doesn't come easily”. In Hwa Chong, everyone is talented. Everyone is chasing their dreams. Surrounded by such motivated people, though seemingly romanticised, inevitably shapes us all into the person we are today and the person we want to be.

Zyn Yee's Straw-Free Petition in Changi Airport

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