Ex-wallflower is PJC's 1st President's Scholar
WHEN Natasha Ann Lum Mei Seem was in secondary school at Bukit Panjang Government High School, she was a middling student whom some perceived as "girlish and timid".
But at Pioneer Junior College (PJC), the petite 19-year-old became president of the student council.
She then joined the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), going through the rigours of Basic Military Training, including field camps and road marches.
Now an officer cadet (OCT) in the air force, she was one of five young Singaporeans who were awarded the prestigious President's Scholarships this year at a ceremony at the Istana yesterday.
She is the first PJC student to be awarded a President's Scholarship.
The other recipients are Ong Si Hui, Olivia, who was from Dunman High School and will study psychology at the University of Oxford; Ong Kah Yong Timothy, from Anglo-Chinese School (Independent), who will read law at the University of Cambridge; and Raffles Institution graduates OCT Joshua Chin Zen Jie, who hopes to pursue environmental science after Officer Cadet School (OCS), and Sean Ong Zhi Han, who is bound for Tufts University in the United States to study history.
They are all 19.
The Public Service Commission has picked the scholarship recipients for their character, leadership potential and outstanding co-curricular and academic achievements. President's Scholarships have been awarded since 1966.
OCT Lum said her decision to join the SAF came from an interest in aviation sparked by her father, technician Kenneth Lum Kien Seng, 46, an aviation enthusiast.
Attending a tea session also changed her view that the military was only for men.
"I felt regret after leaving secondary school as I didn't put myself out there to try out new things. When I went to JC, I set my mind to my goal of achieving more and exceeding expectations, and went out of my comfort zone... I like things that challenged me, more unconventional frontiers," added OCT Lum, who hopes to pursue East Asian Studies in the United States next year after completing OCS.
At the award ceremony, President Tony Tan Keng Yam told the new batch of President's Scholars to continue the legacy of Singapore's forefathers, including the late former president S R Nathan.
A minute of silence was observed in his memory after the National Anthem was sung.