Thursday 22 August 2013

by Amanda Lee Yue Ping, Junior 1 Cempaka, Class of 2014

Ever seen students going about with a thin hardcover book in one hand, pen in the other? You'll notice a determined look on their faces as they rush about hunting for teachers, frantically collecting signatures and not to mention hear a lot of talk about 'the deadline'. I'm sure many of you are familiar with this announcement: "To the following students, please collect your CAS books from Mrs. Manjit in the office."

Photo Credit : Mr. Ashwin Mohandas

If you're new to Cempaka, then you doubtlessly have a quizzical look on your face right now. CAS? Well, to answer that question, I'd have to go a little in depth to give you the full picture.

If there is one thing about Cempaka Schools that makes it stand out from all the rest, it is how all-rounded the school is. There's no denying that an education in Cempaka truly gives you the whole mind, body and soul package. The calendar is a myriad of colour-coded events from January till December, filled with sporting events, performing arts shows, expeditions, charity events and so many other things that one wonders when we can get any actual studying done. Even if you are the more 'chilled-out' type of individual who’d rather leave all the work to your peers, mandatory things in the calendar force you to be active enough. But that’s the life of a Cempakan — to be able to juggle the hectic calendar and at the end of the day, still walk out of school with a good report card.

Couple all the compulsory things in the calendar, throw in a few events you enjoy and would participate in willingly, and there you have it - an active school life. But CAS — Cempaka Awards Scheme, does not stop at that. It stretches out, requiring a student to be active in seven different categories; academics, sport, school events, community service, expeditions, skills and society. The degree of participation in each category increases at every level of the award.

However, there is a cost to leading an active school life. It’s having to sometimes wake up early everyday, even on Sundays. It’s the long weeks of returning home so exhausted you fall asleep on the couch, never making it to the bed. It’s the late nights of typing out plans, finishing designs, completing homework. That feeling in the pit of your stomach when you wake up from your ‘catnap’ on the table to find an unfinished report plastered to your forehead, and the hands on the clock pointing towards a time you don’t want to see. The mad dash to school. The mad dash back when you realize you’ve forgotten to wear your socks. It’s the cost of decisions you have to make. The extra classes during lunch and after school. It’s the annoyed glares from your parents, when you continuously ask them to chauffeur you back and forth for various events. The nagging you endure when they give you the monthly "You don’t study enough" lecture.

I’m sure you would then ask, why bother doing CAS? Is it really worth all that sacrifice? After all, some see it as just another opportunity to sign your name in the Book of Excellence, just another collar pin to add to the lapels of your blazer. Or just another reason for you to attend commencements and listen to repetitive piano music, which after a few rounds just makes you want to bash your head into a wall (or into the piano).

For me, it was never really peer pressure. A little sibling rivalry? Possibly. (Middle child for the win!) Mayhap when I started out, it was all for the glory. I was active enough anyway without anyone needing to force me. Why not grab an award in the meantime? It might start out like that in the beginning. Then as Platinum, the pinnacle of all awards looms ahead of you, taunting you with all its ‘special requirements’ and what not, you begin to realize why exactly you’re doing all this and whether the rewards you reap are worth the toil.

If I had the option to trade my packed school life for a less hectic one, I wouldn’t do it because simply put, the journey is so—much—fun. Putting your all into a piece of work and seeing the wonderful outcome of it makes all the late nights worth it. Spending so much time doing school-related things makes spending time with your family all the more treasured. I’ll always be able to laugh at that one time I had to use a pen to tie my hair in the rush of the morning. I’ll always remember my Sejarah textbook we used to kill this really annoying mosquito in our chalet during an expedition. I’ll never forget standing calf-deep in the sea with my cellphone in hand — about the only place you can get reception from where we were staying in Redang - calling to ask about homework. How can I forget the days of being woefully sunburnt after Games Carnival? Or that burst of adrenaline you get right after winning a match, making you jump up and down screaming like a maniac with the rest of your teammates, regardless of how steamrollered you were right before that. That moment right after an exam when your friend turns behind to look at you and grimaces at the very same time you do, and something inside you relaxes a little because you’re not the only one who found the paper mindbogglingly hard. It’s all these little and not-so-little things that make the journey worthwhile.

Going for the Platinum award made me try new things that I wouldn’t have normally tried. It gave me the joy of being able to prove others wrong, because I managed to do what they thought I couldn't. It made me feel that if I could survive crawling into a cage full of bugs, surely I could do anything. That includes studying like mad the night before the chemistry exam and somehow acing, even though there was a strenuous sports competition the day before.

Not all that keen on swimming,  I probably would not have signed-up for lifesaving if not for my goal of achieving Platinum. The mandatory two laps for Swim For All (SFA) I gladly suffered through — it was for Seladang after all. Doing ten laps for each stroke, and just as a warm-up? Not my cup of tea. Nonetheless, I resigned to digging up my swimming costume and pair of goggles, the latter collecting dust bunnies in some neglected drawer. I also signed up for diving expeditions, in order to fulfill the criteria. What with all the invisible jellyfish, crabs or any other sea monsters your imagination can think of, lurking around just waiting for the opportunity to strike - I admit I was a little unnerved by the idea at first. But trust me, you get the most magical feeling when you suddenly see a sea turtle swim past the coral reef, a sight so majestic and glorious, happening right before your eyes.

And nothing beats that tiny pulse of exhilaration upon realizing that you just did something you were afraid of, or you thought you couldn’t do. Be it when you succeed in towing your friend across the pool twice, when you turn over your exam paper and see that miraculous A, or when you finally reach the peak of a mountain, gasping for breath but feeling like you’re on top of the world, almost literally.

I tried so many new things. I liked some, loved some, others not so much. I know that at the end of the day, I’ll graduate from Cempaka with no regrets, knowing that I’ve lived my school life to the fullest. When I look around me, I see fellow students who will one day jump into the pool - be it the Cheras pool or Damansara one, with much pride at what they've accomplished, jubilation in their hearts, and certainly - no regrets. Regardless of whether you do it for the impressive CV, the scholarship, the prestige, the glint of a newly minted collar pin on your blazer; regardless of whether you’re aiming for Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum, the best part of CAS is and has always been — the journey.

Secondary school life has so much to offer. Grab it with both hands, meet the challenges head-on, full force. As quoted by Dr Rizal, from the foreword of the CAS book, “ I hope you lead a very full and exciting school life”.

Because ‘‘though the road’s been rocky, it sure feels good to me’’ - Bob Marley.

Side-note: To Encik Salleh, thank you for believing in me :) .

by Unknown 23:27 24 comments | in , , , ,


  1. Ahh Manda " I’ll always remember my Sejarah textbook we used to kill this really annoying mosquito in our chalet during an expedition. I’ll never forget standing calf-deep in the sea with my cellphone in hand — about the only place you can get reception from where we were staying in Redang - calling to ask about homework." :D Sigh gonna miss all of this so much!! :( So glad you were crazy enough to do all of this, on your PMR year no less!! :P

  2. Hey Jinn! Yes, I'll really miss all those good times!! :( The expeditions we went on together last year was the best ever <3

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