Outstanding leadership and teamwork might seem like a given for any Student of the Year (SOTY) candidate, but these skills were tested to the limit at this year’s leadership camps.
The camps, which took place on February 13 and 14 at Outward Bound’s Training Centre in Sai Kung, saw SOTY candidates take part in challenges on both land and in the water. These were designed to help the students boost their cooperation as they prepared to come up before – and impress – the judges of the competition.
On land, the students tackled a difficult rope obstacle course that was suspended several metres in the air. The challenges relied not only on the students’ physical strength, but also their intelligence to figure out how to tackle the obstacles together.
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Some candidates were made to walk across a narrow beam raised several feet above the ground, supported only by a rope attached to the rest of their team. Those students had to walk across the length of the beam, with their teammates on the ground guiding the rope.
Dom Wang Guag-ran, 17, from Singapore International School, was a candidate in the SOTY linguistics category for Mandarin. He enjoyed the challenge, despite being afraid of heights.
He explained that for anyone with a fear of heights, the worst thing to do is look down. “But when you are walking on that thing, you are forced to look down. That’s the most challenging part.”
He also learned a few things about facing his fears after completing the challenge. “The fear starts the moment you put on [the harness] and go up the ladder, and it only gets worse once you are up there.” Guag-ran couldn’t help but think of all the things that could go wrong, “but you have to trust yourself and your team,” he said.
Participants also had to tackle the “Giants’ Ladder”: several wooden beams arranged in steps, suspended on cables soaring high in the air. Reaching the top might not sound too difficult, but the beams are around two metres apart from each other, and pulling your own weight up is a real struggle.
Habib Tang Hei-yiu, 19, from Jockey Club Ti-I College, and Chau Wing-lam, 16, from Kwai Chung Methodist College were the first pair to make it to the top of the ladder.
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“At first, I didn’t think that would we get to the highest step, because we saw it was so tall. But the rest of the team cheered us on throughout the climb,” said Habib, adding that her partner Wing-lam gave her a helping hand.
“When we got to the end, I felt a strong sense of achievement.”
The SOTY candidates also took part in several water-based challenges. In one activity, they had just 20 minutes to build a raft, using only bamboo scaffolding, plastic barrels and rope.
Catherine Lam Yik-tsz, 15, from St Paul’s Co-educational College and a candidate in the linguistics category for Cantonese, was worried.
“We were all afraid that the raft would collapse when we were in the water, [...] but it turned out to be fine,” she said.
“Only one or two people in the group knew how to build a raft. So we had to listen to them, and try to collaborate and think creatively about how to make it happen.
“We were all super happy because our teamwork finally paid off!”
The Student of the Year Awards competition is organised by the South China Morning Post and Young Post and sponsored by the Hong Kong Jockey Club.
Edited by Charlotte Ames-Ettridge