"It was in Secondary 2 that I was appointed as Vice President of the Student Council”. Yuna Karasawa graduated from St Francis Methodist School as a 44 pointer in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP). Attaining this score and driving the school’s pioneer batch to its peak is a proud moment for the St Francian Community. It is a surprise for many to learn that Yuna’s initial preferred academic progression was via the GCE ‘O’ Level pathway. The young achiever was informed when she was in Secondary 1, that as she was a year younger than the rest of her batchmates, she would not be able to sit for the GCE ‘O’ Level Examinations along with her classmates as she will not meet the minimum age requirement, and that she should consider alternative pathways offered by the school should she not want to waste a year.
While she faced this hurdle, she allowed herself to reflect upon her options, as she carefully devised her academic journey with St Francis. Yuna continued to be enrolled in the GCE ‘O’ Level programme to take flight with the Junior College route here in Singapore. “In Sec 4 I was thinking that maybe I could repeat another year to take the O’levels”, said Yuna with a slight chuckle. But the year that would be wasted was a reminder that she should use her being a year younger as an advantage instead. With sheer guidance from her teachers Yuna took a bold step forward and progressed on to the IBDP pathway, a very newly offered programme by the school. The IBDP pathway is an internationally recognized course that assesses student work as direct evidence of achievement against its stated goals.
Yuna’s academic achievements mattered to her as much as her ability to grow as a leader and role model to her peers. The Student Council Committee elected her as the Vice President twice in a row when she was in secondary 2 & secondary 3. The recognition for her leadership skills sparked a flame within her to lead her student body. Not every student is able to excel in both academics and leadership roles. The pressure from juggling both roles required a steadfast mind and the perseverance to work independently when required. “To have a goal that’s too high is not too bad” said Yuna in a reassuring tone. Yuna constantly set herself to soar for the stars only so that if she falls, she would have at least reached the mountain top. Yuna’s commitment to the Student Council Committee allowed her to build bridges and gain insight.
“In Secondary 4 I was the president, and after that I became advisor, which they made a position for me as they didn’t know where to place me after that”. Yuna’s involvement in the student body affairs was vital in the growth of the student council and hence was elected as advisor during her final years with St Francis. From tackling a dilemma about her academic progression to carving a niche for herself within the Student Council Yuna broke boundaries big or small and rose to be the leader she is meant to be. We are all aware of the saying that goes “Today’s teenagers are tomorrow’s leaders.” In a world that is moving so quickly, to be identified for your talents and to be rewarded for them one must have a forward-thinking mindset. However just a mindset alone will not be able to help anyone achieve success overnight. They need to be part of an institution that can accommodate and pave the right path for its students.
At St Francis Methodist, students are not limited to their choice of academic pathways. They are given an international rigor with a foundation built strongly by the teachers who are trained by the Ministry of Education. Teachers can shine light on students and help advise which Pre-University pathway will bring out their full potential. As such Yuna was not pushed to do the GCE ‘O’ Level Examinations a year later although she had been part of the full programme since secondary 1 and had even completed her preliminary examinations in secondary 4. Yuna was handed a platter of various programme options offered by the school, such as the High School Preparatory Path, Western Australian Certificate of Education (WACE) and the IBDP pathway.
Independence and learning together with an independent community made a mark on Yuna’s heart. While staying at the Oldem Hall boarding facility during her time at St Francis Methodist, Yuna was exposed to like-minded students who were away from their families, striving to make them proud. Basic things such as managing errands for herself and not having anyone to readily depend on as opposed to those who are staying with their family taught her to be self-reliant. With such great freedom Yuna could have easily gone astray with so many distractions that exist all around a growing teen. Not swayed, Yuna understood the value of this freedom. She used it to her advantage yet again, to pressure herself in a constructive manner to attain the 44 points in her IB examinations.
In today’s generation where students and parents try their best to avoid pressurizing situations, Yuna’s viewpoint is head turning. She explained that “Pressure and motivation comes hand in hand.” Her need to be a perfectionist lit the motivation flame ablaze. The better she performed academically the higher the expectations were amongst her peers and family. Which then pressured her in an encouraging manner to excel. Work for reward and reward for work is something that Yuna had paced her life upon. Yuna promised that even with her studies and leadership roles she was not found mugging all the time as she felt that hanging out with her friends from school and going for occasional dinners played an important part of holding her social life together. It took great responsibility to be able to prioritize and marginalize her likes and needs.
Yuna with the help of the St Francis Methodist School’s highly acclaimed teachers has used her strengths at a maximum level and attained the near perfect score of 44 points, the highest being 45 points. Multiple university offers have come knocking on her door since her graduation from this programme. She had received notable offers from the National University of Singapore, Singapore Management University, University of Warwick & Kyoto University. Students guided under a community sheltered by the belief in God and forward thinking creates versatile leaders. St Francis Methodist School will constantly be a ground for students to break boundaries and create a difference in this ever-changing and ever-improving society.