Coming to Hong Kong from the mainland when he was 11, Yip Chi-nga found it hard to fit in.
"People would laugh at my accent when I spoke in Cantonese and I was forced to repeat Primary Five because I knew very little English," says the Form Six student from Buddhist Wong Wan Tin College, and winner of the SCMP Student of the Year Community award.
Understandably, Chi-nga, now 18, didn't have much confidence in himself. But that was before he started doing volunteer work. Until then, he hadn't thought about helping anyone other than himself.
"I was in Form Three, and doing volunteer work is a big thing at my school so I thought I could earn credit by doing some service hours," he says.
Chi-nga took up community service for the wrong reasons; to gain credit for himself. With such a poor attitude, Chi-nga found himself in a familiar position - he struggled to fit in. He didn't pay much attention during meetings and would wander off to the playground when he was supposed to be working. "I was volunteering for the sake of doing it but the words of our school's social worker changed my life forever," he says. "She spoke to us about the importance of building success on hard work. I was very touched by her words. I started to work on becoming a devoted member of the volunteering team."
His new attitude meant he ended up being a top volunteer, putting in more than a remarkable 700 hours of service last year. But the numbers mean little to him now, because he knows how great it feels to help others.
Volunteering has not only made Chi-nga work harder, he has also developed a positive attitude towards life. "I lead by example. I work the hardest; I am the first to arrive at volunteer meetings and the last to leave," he says. "I know the details of every volunteer project by heart so that I can explain it to my classmates."
On top of this, leading a team of more than 30 students from different grades has earned Chi-nga the respect and admiration of his fellow students. "I treat everyone fairly," he says.
At his school, Chi-nga adds, top performers in academics or sports earn the highest praise but his recognition proves that volunteer work also has its place.
"I didn't think I stood a chance because I was a Band Three student trying to compete with nominees who were Band One students," he says.
"The award has inspired me as it's proof that if I work hard I can be up there with the best."
Chi-nga's next goal is to study social work at university and build a career as a social worker.
"I am very lucky to have been nominated by my principal for a place at university due to my volunteering achievements. I hope I score enough marks in the DSE to secure a spot," he says.