17-year-old Grace Gan used to be quiet and reserved when she first joined the Institute of Technical Education (ITE)'s Applied Food Science course. Due to her shy nature, Grace often found it difficult to make friends and rarely initiated conversations despite yearning to make new friends. As a student with special educational needs, she also struggled to understand difficult topics and needed guidance to break it down into simpler concepts.
Mrs Irene Gan (47), Grace's mother, shared her worries about Grace entering a new phase of life. “There were many thoughts that came to my mind. Would she be able to cope with her studies in ITE? Would she be happy studying there? Most importantly, I worried about her social development – whether she would be able to make friends so that her learning environment in school can be more fulfilling and enjoyable.”
When Irene and Grace found out about TOUCH Youth Enablement's (TYE) Aptitude Buddy Club through ITE's Learning Support Specialist, Irene was relieved that Grace would have a support group of seniors who would befriend and guide her along her ITE journey.
Caption: Grace (far left in top photo, far right in bottom photo) together with her new friends from Aptitude.
“It helps that Aptitude staff reached out to students like Grace at the beginning of the school term. Through activities and lunches during orientation week, Grace was able to make her first friends in ITE and no longer had to eat alone,” shares Irene, who recalls the Aptitude buddies and staff taking initiative to say hello and interact with Grace whenever they saw her.
As part of the ASPIRE programme funded by Citi Foundation and supported by Citi Singapore, students get to go for industry trainings during the June holidays. They get the opportunity to learn new skillsets by joining interest groups such as photography, adventure, and barista, to build their portfolio and increase their employability.
Caption: Grace (front row, 2nd from left) and her classmates attending the Barista Interest Group in June 2023.
Grace was encouraged to sign up for the barista workshop and shares, “It was exciting as I got to learn a new skill and had the chance to brew coffee and be creative while making latte art. Through activities like the barista workshop, I have become more confident in myself and am willing to try new things.”
Now in Year 2, Grace has grown to become more confident and is able to build meaningful friendships with her classmates. “Through the past year, we saw Grace change and talk more. Whenever she comes for programmes, she always has a smile on her face. It's delightful to see that as a staff, knowing that a student enjoys the programme and looks forward to joining our activities,” shares Gabriel Goh, Senior Coach from TYE.
Caption: Grace taking part in various activities like laser tag and amazing race organised by Aptitude.
“I want to thank Aptitude for doing such good work to enfold students into the ITE community when they first step into school. I'm thankful that they have the patience and compassion to communicate and interact with them and appreciate the hard work they put into creating a supportive learning environment. We are blessed to have Aptitude as part of Grace's learning journey in ITE!” Irene says with a smile.
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TOUCH Youth Enablement runs youth engagement centres in the three Institute of Technical Education (ITE) Colleges in Singapore. Through our youth engagement centres located on campus, we run regular programmes aimed at enabling youths to pursue personal growth and progress, build resilience and be future-ready. Our mentoring strategies are to engage, enrich, and empower students.
Story published in 2023