WHILE many of her peers concentrated on studying for the O-levels last year, Esther Poh juggled school and part-time work as an order taker at a McDonald's drive-through in Boon Lay.
For three years, the 17-year-old has worked an average of seven hours a day on weekends and school holidays, to help with the family finances.
"I envied other students who could just focus on their studies," said the single child, who lives with her parents and uncle in a three-room flat in Boon Lay.
Despite the tough circumstances, the Secondary 4 student at Juying Secondary School surprised herself yesterday by scoring three distinctions and five passes at last year's O-level examinations.
"It was very tiring. When I returned home after work, I would take a short nap before starting on my revision," said Esther, who spent three to four hours each night revising for eight months leading up to the exams.
"I am satisfied with my results. My teachers sacrificed a lot of their free time to help me, even coming back to school on weekends to revise with me."
Madam Mak Wai Han, her mathematics teacher, said: "She carries a positive mindset with her wherever she goes. Despite her financial situation, she is always very cheerful."
Esther hopes to pursue a business diploma at Singapore Polytechnic. She has been saving up for the tuition fees and will also apply for financial aid.
Her situation had a part to play in her decision to study business.
"I have gained a lot of work experience, it has taught me how to manage my time well."