Johor-born Calvin Woo to receive Queen's Young Leaders Award

The 21-year-old will be awarded by Queen Elizabeth II at a ceremony in Buckingham Palace on Thursday

By Andrea Tim | Published: 28 Jun 2016

Queen's Young Leader
Photo: Calvin Woo

[Updated 28 June 2016] Click here to read Calvin's recap of what it was like meeting the Queen!


Calvin Woo is the only Malaysian to win the Queen's Young Leaders Award this year. The 21-year-old Muar, Johor native will join 59 other winners from Commonwealth countries at the ceremony in Buckingham Palace this Thursday, where Queen Elizabeth II will commend them for the work they have done to improve communities back home.

Calvin may be young, but he is already giving back to his fellow millennials in Malaysia with NexGen Impact, a company he recently co-founded with Patricia Tan to improve education for young people in Malaysia who are about to enter employment. He submitted three essays in his award application, elaborating on how the award will help his work back home – winners receive training, mentoring and networking that will contribute to their respective organisations.

"When I was in MRSM [MARA Junior Science College], my teacher gave me the opportunity to explore my talent in public speaking and debating. It was then that I realised that discovering and developing our talent can be so fulfilling and liberating. Not all of my friends were given that chance, so I started my work to give millennials that opportunity to develop their talents," Calvin told us.

To call his resume impressive is an understatement. After graduating from Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris with a Diploma in English language, Calvin's credentials include Chief Coordinator at the National Unity Youth Fellowship, which was run by the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS). He was also Head of Programmes at SASTRA Education Development, where some of his work involved academic and career development programmes for underprivileged students. The US Embassy also selected him to participate in the US State Department's Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) Academic Fellowship on Social Entrepreneurship and Economic Development at the University of Connecticut.

Photo: SEAM

"Meeting the Queen's Young Leaders from other Commonwealth Countries would definitely broaden my network across the Commonwealth," Calvin added. He is currently having a busy residential week in London, where he has been attending meetings with dignitaries and leaders in various fields with the other winners. "Sharing of practices in other countries would be a good way for me to take away some of them to implement here in Malaysia and the region."

Calvin has plenty to look forward to after he returns from his exciting week in the UK. The NexGen Impact team is currently planning their first event in August – a coffee talk on social entrepreneurship – and will unveil their first project by January 2017. Calvin is also writing a book, which will be published by MPH Books, about his work and his experience as a Queen's Young Leader.

"Be sincere, genuine and bold," he offered to future Queen's Young Leaders Award hopefuls.

The Queen's Young Leaders Award was established in 2014 and will run until 2018. Every year, the programme selects 60 exceptional young people aged between 18 to 29 from all Commonwealth nations, awarding them with bespoke mentoring and online education from the University of Cambridge, as well as a week-long residential programme in the UK, at the end of which the winners will receive their accolades from the Queen. The programme aims to provide a boost for the winners to expand and continue their work. Applications for the 2017 Queen's Young Leaders Programme opens at 8pm BST on 24 June 2016.

Related: Wales Bonner wins 2016 LVMH Prize


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