SOME five years ago, an incident took place in Serene Wong Hong Sien’s home that would forever alter the course of her life and that of her family.
A gas explosion ripped through her house in Miri, Sarawak, not only injuring her – she suffered 45% first-degree burns – but also taking the life of her older brother.
Following that, her father became the sole breadwinner, working as a glass fabricator, while her mother resigned from her job to take care of Wong as she was hospitalised for a month and had to return for follow-up care every two to three days.
So, when Wong was informed that she had been selected as one of the four recipients of the Soo Ewe Jin (SEJ) Scholarship in partnership with the Star Education Fund, on top of her scholarship award from Sunway University also through the Star Education Fund, she was ecstatic.
“It is a huge financial challenge for my family to support me in pursuing a degree that I am passionate about because the tuition fees are so expensive,” she told StarEdu.
“Thanks to both scholarships, my family and I no longer have to worry about the cost of my tertiary studies. I can now focus on my studies while also taking part in volunteer programmes to gain more knowledge and help others,” added the 20-year-old who is undertaking the Bachelor of Science (Hons) in Actuarial Studies programme at Sunway University.
Wong shared her love for mathematics, coupled with the prospect of holding a well-paying job, was what first drew her to actuarial studies.
“But after discovering more about actuarial science, I know that this course does not only involve mathematics, but also programming and economics. It would be a good match for me, as I could gain a lot from it,” she said.
The other three recipients of the SEJ scholarship – which covers living expenses for the duration of their studies – were Leong Van Jun, Asareel Jon-Jorge Kennet and Ting Lik Ming, all of whom also received scholarships from their respective universities through the Star Education Fund.
Leong and Ting are pursuing the Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) and the Bachelor of Computer Science, respectively, at Monash University Malaysia, while Asareel the Bachelor of Science (Hons) Financial Economics at Sunway University.
Both Leong and Asareel attended the Star Education Fund award presentation ceremony for the year 2022 held at Menara Star on Jan 17.
With the presentation of the four awards, the SEJ Scholarship Fund had been fully disbursed, said Angeline Lim, widow of the late Soo Ewe Jin.
“It is my hope that SEJ scholars will succeed in their aspirations and careers, and pay back to society by helping others in need,” she said in a statement, while expressing her appreciation to all contributors to the fund.
Established in 2017 in memory of former Star Media Group executive editor Soo, best known for his weekly column Sunday Starters, the fund received contributions from well-wishers totalling over RM368,000.
From 2017 to 2019, in collaboration with Universiti Sains Malaysia Foundation (Yayasan USM), SEJ scholarships were awarded to three scholars pursuing journalism studies at the varsity.
In 2020, following the end of the collaboration, the balance of the fund totalling RM266,754 was transferred to Star Foundation, and the focus shifted to providing living expenses for Star Education Fund scholars who are in need.
To date, nine Star Education Fund scholars have benefited from the SEJ scholarship.