Harpareet Singh, a Grade 12 student at Raimondi College Photo: The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups

A Grade 12 student at Raimondi College, a middle school in Hong Kong, has triumphed in the finals of a public-speaking contest despite failing in three previous attempts to win the crown.

Harpareet Singh, who was born in Hong Kong of Indian ethnicity, became the champion of the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups Standard Chartered Hong Kong English Public Speaking Contest in February, news website HK01.com reported.

He said he owed his achievement to a teacher, now deceased, who discovered his talent for public speaking five years ago.

As a member of an ethnic minority in Hong Kong, Singh said he was shy and had trouble getting used to life at the secondary school five years ago when he first entered.

“They were all [ethnic Chinese] students communicating in Cantonese. I didn’t know what to do and kept asking myself, should I be here in this school?”

Singh felt depressed and did not want to make new friends because his ethnicity made him feel out of place. He did not want to go to school, or to finish his homework and studies.

An English-language teacher surnamed Leung noticed Singh’s unhappy face. She talked to him and tried to understand the problems he had been facing. In doing so, she discovered that he had a talent for public speaking.

Leung then started to encourage Singh to join the English public-speaking contest. She not only coached him during school recesses but also provided training over holidays.

Singh took part in the annual contest three times but fell short every time.

Two years ago, Leung died of cancer. Singh said he was very sad and wanted to give up the contest. However, he remembered that he had promised his mentor that he would try his best to get the trophy.

Finally on his fourth attempt, after working with dedication and enthusiasm, Singh beat 900 competitors to grab the top prize in the senior division of the contest this year, Sing Tao Daily reported.

Singh praised his late teacher for her support, for her care, and for discovering his talent. He encouraged others to chase their dreams, work hard and never give up trying to excel.