You know the drill by now. Millennials, Gen-Z, the kids, they’re bad.
We can prove otherwise with all the data in the world. Take the Youth Study on Transitions and Evolving Pathways in Singapore (Youth STEPS) survey by the National Youth Council and the Institute of Policy Studies Social Lab. After following 4,000 Singaporean youth annually over a six-year period, the initial findings of the first national-level longitudinal study found that—surprise, surprise—our youth are driven and compassionate. Singaporean youth not only seek to look out for themselves, they desire to care for others around them.
Regardless, the weekly think-piece continues to rear its head: the youth are lazy, entitled, and can’t get off Instagram. It’s as though picking on the younger generation is a rite of passage into becoming middle-aged.
This isn’t about them. It’s about us.
But who are ‘we’? What constitutes ‘youth’?
The National Youth Council defines ‘youth’ as 15-35 year olds, which encompasses the entire RICE staff. I could extoll my colleagues’ virtues for hours, but you’re not interested in a bunch of monkeys clacking away at electronic typewriters.
Instead, let me introduce the youth who are arguably defining their generation. From the youth who have overcome adversity, to those who’ve shown remarkable adaptability, and even the advocates leading our frontline against our generation’s largest problems. They are the benchmark against which our youth should be measured.
Do you love gold? Then you should set your sights on Nur Syahidah Alim. She is Singapore’s first world champion archer, proving her mettle at the 2019 World Archery Para Championships. 33 and in her prime, Syahidah’s set on the path to the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. There’s no romanticising disability—any athlete on the international stage had to work their damndest to get there. So it should come as no surprise that Syahidah has been elected to be a member of the Asian Paralympics Committee’s Athletes Committee. With this appointment, she’s in a better position to work towards greater representation and inclusion of para-athletes.
Syahidah isn’t the only one flexing outside the little red dot. Jeremy Teng is a trilingual diva who has been on The Voice of China as well as Japan’s Nodojiman The World throughout his singing career. Nowadays you can hear him belting Mandopop or jazzing it up acapella style at his university’s CCA events.
But the 25 year-old has also overcome his own personal challenges. Back in his army days, Jeremy was severely overweight and felt that his size was negatively affecting both his health and his singing. Through having the discipline to run daily and curbing the desire to stress eat, Jeremy managed to reach his desired weight in the range of 70kg from his original 130kg. If there’s anyone who knows how to set a goal and grind towards achieving it, it’s him.
There’s Eunice Amor Oh. 21 years young, she’s an active member of her campus community, juggling CCAs, camps, and academic commitments between two faculties. Sounds like your average university student, right? But Eunice is also a busker, and a kick-ass hip hop dancer. Her passion for performance shines through in each note, each impeccably executed movement. She’s a paragon of the all-rounded youth enriching themselves with activities they enjoy. Why be a jack at all when you can be a master of many?
What happens when you really want something that doesn’t quite exist yet? There’s only one obvious solution: to start a business and come up with it yourself. That’s the story of Ezra Outdoors, an outdoor apparel platform and brain child of Ang Shao Qing and Wong Wan Yee. It was the duo’s desire for functional, lived-in essentials that get people moving that spurred them to action. Along with their one intern—Shao Qing’s younger sister—the 22 year-olds kick-started their freshman launch in April. With glowing reviews and a sincere willingness to listen, Ezra Outdoors is a testament to genuine, simple small businesses.
But these youth find a way.
There’s Dipna Lim-Prasad, who at 28 is a retired Singapore runner and new mother—congratulations! She’s co-founder of In My Shoes, a non-profit that redistribute running shoes to those in need. The initiative is simple. It’s nothing as glamorous as rescuing puppies from a burning building. But Dipna and her co-founder James Walton carry out their mission with pride. The fact is, there are underprivileged youth in Singapore who can’t afford a pair of sports shoes. Being able to help them achieve an active lifestyle is just one of the little things to make their lives brighter.
And he gets to go diving with industry standard camera equipment. Just some perks of the job.
These individuals are from my own curated pantheon, but there’s no shortage of youth doing fantastic things. From the starry-eyed poets flocking to the Singapore Writers’ Festival, to the innovative students at the Singapore Science and Engineering Fair, there’s a whole generation’s worth to look out for.
You know, there’s a line between confidence and arrogance. But I’m unashamedly celebrating my generation because I know we have so much to offer. The future seems bleak, but we’ll be inheriting the world.
And I think we’re going to do okay.
Do you think your story belongs amongst these youth? Tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org.