80 inmates achieved the National Youth Achievement Award (NYAA) Gold Award this year – the largest number of inmate participants to receive the highest honour in NYAA’s 20-year history with the Singapore Prison Service (SPS).
In total, 131 inmates completed the NYAA programme this year, which shows their commitment to serve the community and strive for personal development while serving their sentence. 57 inmates (among them 48 NYAA Gold awardees) received their award in person at the NYAA ceremony 15th December 2020. The ceremony was held across participating prison institutional clusters, with families of the awardees observing the ceremony virtually through simultaneous live broadcasts at SPS’s visitor centres. President Halimah Yacob, who was the Guest-of-Honour for this year’s ceremony, attended the ceremony at Institution Tanah Merah 1 and was accompanied by Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development. The other NYAA awardees, who had been released prior to the ceremony or were unable to attend the ceremony, will be receiving their award at a separate occasion after the ceremony.
In her speech, President Halimah Yacob commended the awardees for demonstrating their motivation to change and willingness to contribute to their community. She said: “This year marks a key milestone, as we celebrate the 20th year of NYAA in Prisons. To each one of you who embarked on your NYAA journey, you can be proud of yourselves for making this effort to change. Your NYAA experience will stand you in good stead, and I look forward to you making a positive impact on our society.”
The NYAA programme was first introduced in prison for inmates aged between 16 and 25. This year, the age limit for NYAA was increased to 30, which allowed more inmates from across the different prison institutions to benefit from the programme. More than 2,000 inmates have completed the NYAA programme across five prison institutions since the NYAA programme started in SPS.
This year, for the first time, an Honorary NYAA Gold Award was presented to legal practitioner Mr Darren Tan, a distinguished alumnus of the NYAA programme. Mr Tan, who received the Bronze and Silver awards during his incarceration, has gone on to serve the community by supporting marginalised groups and at-risk youths. He is now the Director of Invictus Law Corporation, Director of non-profit organisation Tasek Jurong Limited and co-founder of the Beacon of Life Academy.
“I am deeply honoured to be receiving the inaugural Honorary NYAA Gold Award. The values that I gained from the NYAA programme almost two decades ago continue to serve me well even today – the spirit of excellence, resilience, and most of all, to be of service to others. These are values that will no doubt be passed on to each succeeding generation of youths through the NYAA programme,” said Mr Tan.
In line with this year’s theme, “Dare 2 Explore, Lead 0ur Dreams, Strive 2 Succeed, Better 0ur Society”, NYAA participants initiated several outreach projects even in the midst of the nation’s battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. This included developing posters about the virus that were used within prison institutions to educate fellow inmates, and making personalised cards to show their appreciation to our frontline healthcare workers.
“The optimism shown by our NYAA participants, and thinking creatively to achieve their goals, while keeping up morale both within and beyond the prison walls, is remarkable,” said SUPT Angeline Chua, chairperson of the NYAA Ceremony 2020 organising committee. “We are proud to journey with our inmates to develop these traits further, in the hope that the skills and knowledge acquired through the programme will help them make the right decisions in life, stay crime-free and give back to the community in the future.”
“We are very encouraged to witness the transformation of inmates when they complete their NYAA journey. They have found a new purpose in life and are serving the community with their talents and skills after their release and have integrated well into the mainstream society,” said Mr James Soh, Executive Director of the National Youth Achievement Award Council.