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Empowering Youths-at-Risk in Singapore

A teenager from a broken family with no adult figure at home to confide in. Hates being at home, thus choosing to spend time with his “friends” smoking, doing drugs and possibly getting into fights. This is a typical picture of at-risk youths in Singapore whom we should do all we can to prevent them from going down the wrong path. Yet, the lack of empathy from society only pushes them further down the wrong path.

Labeled as “bad students” and “delinquents”, they see no harm in truly becoming one. After all, there seems to be no care or concern for them in this world. But it is time for the community to change and empathize with these youths. They too want to find success in life and the community should be there to help them. In this article, we will explore ways the community help to empower them and how you can do your part too.


In our very pragmatic society, it has almost become a privilege to be surrounded with positivity. Many youths, after all, have become too attuned to negative voices around them since young. Lacking supportive adult figures whom they can look up to, it is of utmost importance that they can find one outside. Creating sustained, supportive relationship with these youths will slowly build up their trust in the adult, allowing them to be guided back to the right path.

This was what Joshua Tay aimed for when he started Impart back in 2017. Other than academics Tay wanted to focus on targeted sustained interactions through their one-to-one sessions. Tay believes that the “little moments” from such sessions have the power to change the youth’s narrative. The interactions during the sessions let the youth feel the care they lack, building up their trust in the volunteer. This allows them to be open to new narratives about themselves, their prospects, and their communities.

An Impart volunteer mentoring a Youth. Source: Mothership (Photo courtesy of Joshua Tay)

Impart’s first student was an N-level private candidate who scored B’s and C’s after failing his first attempt. Leading up to the exams, the youth was often late or absent from his sessions, but his tutor never gave up on him. This persistent support drove him to work even harder. Every time he knew that his tutor was waiting for him, he went home and studied twice as long.

This supportive relationship was enough to spur the youth on and work towards a brighter future. and also shows why giving them that intangible support is crucial

Exploring and pursuing pathways that work for each individual

In a society highly focused on grades, youths-at-risk are often deemed as a ‘failure’ due to unsatisfactory grades. Unguided, these youths may take that narrative as is and give up entirely, and thus, support and guidance is important to light up a path for them.

Through structured career assessment, training, apprenticeship and job mentoring, we can help youths find a viable career path that suits their interests and skills. Once they see the hope of a better future within reach, these youths will work hard to grab it. With proper, sustained guidance and support to push them on, they will eventually taste the success that people denied of them.

Photo: Unsplash/ Vladislav Babienko

15-year-old Umar found his passion for cooking through various programmes with Circle of Friends (COF), a non-profit organisation working with youths at risk. With much encouragement, he worked on his passion and landed his first job working in a kitchen, paving the way for a brighter future.

There are so many kids like Umar who have undiscovered passions, in which they could fare really well. As a community, we can come together and provide them the support they need to discover those dreams, and at the same time, give them the resources they need. This is what we are trying to do with our platform

Maintain engagement in school

Falling behind classmates can be highly demoralising for youths. In addition, their poor academic performance is often hastily attributed to a lack of hard work by adults. Over time, they may lose interest in their studies and start skipping classes and possibly, even drop out of school.

The lack of a complete, proper education will only set them back more, pushing them towards the wrong path. Hence it is extremely important to keep them engaged in school. Teachers will have to work with them, encourage them, and celebrate their improvements.

This is extremely important as teachers will spend the most time with these youths and the teacher’s actions and words will make or break them. In addition, schools will have to try to provide equal opportunities for them. This means extra support to ensure they have access to all the necessary resources.

The environment in which four children in a household ranging from primary school to polytechnic are having their home-based learning. Source: Channel News Asia

In the recent nation-wide home-based learning, many students from low-income families did not have a laptop for e-learning and even if they did, their home environment may not be conducive to learning. This meant that they were losing out to their peers for the entire length of HBL. This difference will be felt when schools reopen which may further demoralise them. Hence for school engagement, it is extremely important to provide these youths with extra support, both materially and emotionally.

Last Words

It is time for society to empathise with at-risk youths and help pull them out of their predicaments. Every action counts and you can do your part too. For instance, you can empower a 15-year-old boy in his drive towards becoming an artist by gifting him a laptop for his online lessons. Do feel free to browse other similar requests on our platform too!

Top Image credits: Unsplash/Hashram Panbudi

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