From Depression to Content Creator: Out-of-School Youth Forges New Paths


When his depression worsened, he had to stop schooling for a year. When he returned, he struggled to keep up with his peers. The pressure from struggling at academics and fitting in drove Rizqi Azrul Bin Wan Aziz to drop out of school earlier this year. 

“I was full of doubts. I didn’t know what I would be doing. Would I be living from paycheck to paycheck? Would I be dead out there by the age of 21? I had no idea. I had no purpose,” he shared. Today, the 17-year-old works as a junior content creator for social enterprise The Hidden Good and as part of a production team at a local production house.

Discussions with his principal had led him to YMCA-Barclays Connect With Work, a 6-month programme that equips out-of-school youths with skills that increase their employability. The youths undergo vocational and soft skills training, including practical skills like writing resumés and going for interviews, and a vocational course conducted by industry partners, including options such as hairdressing, make-up and culinary skills, among others. A social worker also provides social and emotional support, and career counselling throughout the process. 

“The experience was something completely different from school. I met a lot of friends from very different backgrounds. I thought I was the only one who ‘dropped out’ but it comforted me to know I’m not alone in this journey. I know there is someone beside me to go through this journey together,” said Rizqi Azrul, who underwent the Web Design course.

“It was very intimidating, but the people at YMCA were all very supportive. Our instructor, Mr Jaden Ho, slowed down for us if we needed it. It’s rare to find trainers like that, who actually care about you,” said Rizqi.

Having completed the programme and secured a full-time job, Rizqi is now exploring private education options for the future. He hopes to complete his GCE ‘O’ Levels and pursue further education at a local polytechnic and eventually a university. “This experience has really given me a different perspective on life. I believe that anyone from any background can achieve anything, if you set your mind to it. It gave me the confidence I needed,” he said.

The YMCA-Barclays Connect With Work Graduation Party 2019 celebrated the achievements of youths graduating from last year’s programme. Like Rizqi, many of them have had to overcome challenges in life to forge a new path outside the conventional education system. 

“In the eight years that we have been running this programme, the youths never cease to inspire me. In a time of their lives when others have written them off, they show grit and perseverance, overcoming their difficulties and achieving new heights. We are heartened to see the programme touch the lives of these youths and support them in living productive and fulfilling lives,” said Steve Loh, General Secretary & CEO, YMCA of Singapore. 


Contributed by Sim Yu Xiang.