Graduate Stories | A tale of unyielding resilience
Updated: Feb 25, 2022
Everyone’s had their share of obstacles and struggles; Casper is no exception. Amidst all the setbacks in Casper’s life, he remained undaunted. Read on to find out how Casper has grown into the individual he is today, and what he has learnt from his hardships.
When his time in the 10-week Customised Immersive program came to a close, words couldn’t fully express what Casper was feeling. Yet, if he could pinpoint the rough sentiment that encapsulates the bulk of it, it would be a sense of pride.
Life hasn’t been easy on 19-year-old Casper Tay Yu Heng, but he has gotten to this moment through his never-say-die determination to see things through. We wanted to chat with him to celebrate how he came to be and learn more about the journey along the way.
Casper came clad in a snug T-shirt and a pair of jeans. There was nothing out of the ordinary. That is, until we caught a familiar sight. His footwear - a pair of slippers modelled after a pair of gaped fishes - eyes wide as if frozen in shock. It brought us back to one of the first moments Casper let us in on his quirky side. During our informal photoshoot, he sauntered in those very slippers when we asked the students to bring their favourite item that best represents them.
Completely unabashed by its absurdity, he took eleven stops crossing from the Northeast line to the Circle line to meet us at our main office located at one-north. Where their mouths were wide open, Casper’s toes peeked through to greet the world.
The fish slippers were reminiscent of Casper’s jovial nature. Describing himself as a jester, Casper comes off as a happy-go-lucky individual. Right off the bat, he was really comfortable sharing with us about how his week went and adventures with his pet parrot, named Happy. During his downtime, he unwinds by watching movies and anime (Japanese animated series). For the most part, he derives the greatest joy from being able to joke around with loved ones, especially his mother.
When asked how he came to be, however, we saw a more sombre mood taking over. Because of how harsh his reality has been, Casper was not exactly one to wear his heart on his sleeve. Like the fish on his feet, his jester’s disposition might’ve been his way of throwing a positive spin on things.
Casper is a Digital Marketing graduate of the Hatch Customised Immersive, Hatch’s flagship impact program. The train-and-place program that catalyses learners’ journeys into the digital and design industry. Under Hatch Academy, Hatch’s training arm, learners can choose to pursue either Digital Marketing or User Interface, User Experience (UI/UX) Design so they can better respond to this trend. These are fast-growing fields in Singapore, as its workforce faces a progressive shift towards digitalisation.
The main reason why Casper joined the Hatch Customised Immersive program was because he wanted to upskill and eventually own a business he can call his own. Starting his own company, having the money to do things he liked, and being able to support his mother comfortably were how he defined success. The path Casper took was an effortful one, but it has brought him closer to his goals. What unravels here is Casper’s heartening tale of resilience: The trying circumstances he has been in thus far, what made him the ‘jester’ he identifies as, and how he got to where he is today.
Rough patches in his formative years
From as early as during his daycare days, Casper had been picked on, ostracised, and called names. This extended to his adolescent years in church and secondary school.
“I didn’t like the things they said to me, so I decided to ‘give them back’,” Casper explained. He often retaliated against unfair treatment by getting into physical altercations with his peers in school and at church.
Adult figures in school were not empathetic of his predicament, to which he felt that they had already made up their mind against him.
He attempted to put an end to the bullying by staying at home. But he could not drown out his thoughts with silence that overwhelmed his empty house. His mother, the sole breadwinner for the household, was out for most of the time juggling two jobs to provide for them.
“I cried every single day, I was sian (sick and tired) of everything already,” he added. Casper came to care and react to things less, which seemed to work for him.
Feeling isolated, Casper left school when he was 15.
He then made a conscious effort to cut off people from his life. Casper erased his social media platforms. But even that didn’t diminish his feelings of emptiness and resignation.
The turning point
Having attended church on a regular basis since he was 6 years old, Casper has built a peculiar rapport with his church pastor. As she was one of the few people that genuinely supported him when he was at his lowest, Casper had no qualms about holding her in the highest regard. “She’s very understanding and very nice, I would never dare to take advantage of her,” he said.
Once, he rebelled by sneaking out late at night during a church-organised camp. He was caught by his pastor, who later asked Casper to leave the camp for causing disruption. Though it may not seem like much at first, the encounter was a significant turning point for him; without it, then, “Today I wouldn’t be a normal human being,” he said.
Being punished by his teachers back in school had never once fazed him. Yet, watching his actions hurt someone who has always believed in him shook him to the core.
“Back then, I didn’t listen to anyone, and I never reflected on my actions,” he said.
“I shouldn’t have done something stupid like that and disappointed her.”
Since then, Casper’s relationship with his pastor has gotten even stronger, and she continues to be a steady pillar of support he knows he can rely on when the going gets tough. This pastor in mention was also one of Casper’s mentors at CampusImpact, a social service agency that works with disadvantaged children and their families.
Initial brush with Hatch
“When I first learned about Hatch, I thought [to myself], ‘Wah, 可以 (Mandarin for “can”) leh,” Casper said.
At that point, he was helping his pastor as an active volunteer with CampusImpact. Noticing that Casper possessed a good natural intuition towards digital marketing, she shared with him about Hatch’s Customised Immersive program.
Though he didn’t enjoy studying, the program curriculum spoke to Casper as they covered hands-on, real-world application modules that he wanted to learn. To him, studying this way would feel different from conventional studying back in secondary school.
Furthermore, Digital Marketing appealed to him greatly as he saw it as a headstart in his entrepreneurship journey. Having the marketing know-how would save him the costs for hiring marketing staff in his future company. “Waste money, I can do it myself,” Casper quipped.
He came onboard in January 2021, but it took him a while to get used to learning again. It had been almost three years since Casper had been studying in an actual classroom setting. Apart from being active in CampusImpact’s activities, he spent the time in odd jobs such as being a GrabFood rider, a staff at a quaint bubble tea store, and a banquet waiter. It was tough for him to get back in the groove of being at a desk and focusing in class.