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Soo Yu Zhu
Senior Executive, Youth Development Programmes, YMCA of Singapore
Published on 27/04/20
Yu Zhu was just a student when she joined University-YMCA (Uni-Y), a university service club of YMCA of Singapore as a member. Six years later, she finds herself in YMCA, this time as Senior Executive of the Youth Development Programmes (YDP) department, nurturing those in her very shoes just several years back. This is her story.


Tell us more about your role.

My department focuses on youth development, and my role is to provide guidance and mentorship to strengthen our Uni-Y youths to be servant leaders who will impact our local and international communities. It involves a high level of interaction with young adults from the clubs to develop, implement and administrate youth-related programmes. 

Why did you join social service?

Incidentally, I was a member of Uni-Y when I was still a university student. As club members, we were groomed to become student leaders and engaged in various community service programmes. I joined the club because it seemed interesting, but little did I know I was going to fall in love with it! The best part? As my tenure as a student leader came to an end, the management at Uni-Y offered me an internship position, which I was more than delighted to take up!

That’s wonderful. Tell us more about your internship.

Through my internship, I learnt more about the behind-the-scenes work of Uni-Y. From programme development to student outreach, I was privy to much of the work that served as the foundations of Uni-Y. I also gained a larger perspective of the youth development landscape of YMCA, which gave me a deeper understanding of the agency’s capabilities and how it contributes to community-building. After completing the internship and graduating from university, the Head of Department for YDP approached me regarding a full-time position, and I accepted happily!

That’s great! What was the transition from internship to full-time staff like?

It was smooth. My scope widened and there was some additional workload, but it was nothing I couldn’t handle. Being an intern had given me a “preview” of what it would be like to work in YMCA, so I was fully aware of what to expect. Subsequently, I attended trainings to mentor student leaders and I enjoyed being able to deepen my job scope and begin grooming the next generation of leaders. 

After six years, what has your experience been like in the sector so far? 

It’s been very fulfilling. I enjoy the work I’m doing and have grown personally and professionally. Beyond that, I’ve also been offered opportunities to attend courses and conferences. These experiences have given me a deeper perspective of the latest developments in the sector, and the sort of job growth opportunities available such as management, research and direct practice roles.

Can you share the impact of your work?

I believe that youths are the next generation of leaders, and the platform and opportunities we provide would mould them to be better servant leaders that go beyond their university years, and into the workforce. This process of growth takes time, but seeing their transformation over time is very heartwarming and encouraging! 

Do you have a story or example of this transformation?

Yes. Take Sarah*, who used to be a Uni-Y member. When I first met her, she was soft-spoken and always questioning herself. She was smart and bright but lacked the confidence to speak up and convey her ideas. I mentored her for two years and during that time, I saw Sarah blossom into a more self-assured person. It took time to build a bond and guide her through her challenges, but over the years, she began trusting herself to push boundaries and become the best version of herself.  

That’s heartening to hear. What advice do you have for those looking to embark on a role in social service?

If you’re unsure, begin with an internship first or speak to those in the sector when you have the opportunity to do so. Ask questions, be curious. It doesn’t pay to err on the side of safety. Dare to try and the results can be immensely rewarding.

*The client’s name has been changed to protect their privacy.

A role in youth work is one of many in social service. To find out more, read about a career in Youth Work..
Yu Zhu works closely with her team to empower youths through leadership opportunities