Harvard Prize Book Award – A Motivational Nudge for the Students of SJIS

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From left to right: Miss Mildred Voon and Brother Robert Teoh, FMS with the nominees, Emily Chai Pei Xuan, Celine Sim Mei Chern and Ryan Kok Jin Hong

On the 25th of November, three St. Joseph’s International School Year 11 students, Celine Sim Mei Chern (11 Blue), Emily Chai Pei Xuan (11 Blue) and Ryan Kok Jin Hong (11 Red) were presented with certificates of acknowledgement, having been selected among their peers, in the running to receive the ultimate recognition – Harvard Prize Book Award (HPBA).

The HPBA is a recognition that the esteemed university rewards to bright students from selected schools globally, including Malaysia. In Kuching, Sarawak, the HPBA was introduced to the school by Miss Mildred Voon, the award programme coordinator and an alumnus of Harvard University.

Celine, Emily and Ryan were selected in October to undergo a process of evaluation, which reviewed areas of academic excellence and involvement as well as contribution to the school’s extra-curricular programmes, community services and charities. The selection was done after a careful narrowing down of potential candidates, by the Year 11 Homeroom Teachers, Level Coordinator and Principal.

The essence of the award has piqued the interest of the school principal, Br. Robert Teoh FMS, of the Frates Maristae a Scholis (Marist Brothers of the Schools).

“The aim of our Marist education is to groom students to be good and responsible citizens who care about the society and community that they live in”, Br. Robert commented, sharing the reason behind his full support to the award programme, when it was introduced to the school by Miss Mildred Voon.

The Homeroom teachers also expressed their positive feedback for the introduction of the HPBA to the school, not only for this pioneering cohort of students, but also for future generations of students who now have the opportunity to receive this prestigious award themselves.

“When I first heard about the HPBA, I was happy to know that this is a good opportunity to expose our students to awards that they are eligible for after they have worked so hard throughout their high school years.  Hopefully, this group will set a good example for their juniors on what doors will be opened to you when you work hard towards your dream,” commented Miss Ruth Wong, one of the Year 11 Homeroom teachers. 

One of the final deciding factors for the determination of award recipients, was the interview of the nominees by a panel of Malaysian Harvard Alumni.

“The Harvard Alumni panel was impressed with the students’ achievements and enjoyed interacting with them throughout the interviews. Thank you, Brother Robert, Miss Natallee and all the teachers who assisted in the evaluation,” feedbacked Miss Mildred Voon, regarding the panel’s first experience of conducting the programme with the school.

Ultimately, after the interview and final deliberation of the panel, Emily was named the recipient of the Harvard Prize Book Award for the Year 2020.

“Thank you very much for awarding me with the Harvard Prize Book. Prior to the interview, it allowed me to self-reflect and improve on my weaknesses. The interview had made me more confident in my ability and strengthen my passion towards achieving my dreams,” Emily commented, as the first winner of the award.    On the other hand, Celine and Ryan, as nominees of the award also shared that the HPBA was an amazing opportunity for self-discovery and recollection on matters important and significant to shaping their future. It also gave them a chance to step back to rethink some of the plans that they had for themselves, especially in giving themselves the opportunity to perhaps consider “roads less travelled” in terms of their career paths. •