Student of the year!

LEONG YIQ ZHENN is on a path untravelled by many. Unlike other youth leaders around the world who are championing a social cause, Leong is passionate about educating youth on a subject that not many teenagers are concerned about at their age – financial literacy.

The 19-year-old Economics student at the University of Calgary in Canada is determined to raise awareness about financial literacy to help prevent the younger generation from making mistakes in terms of finance.

He also wants them to develop skills and gain knowledge about entrepreneurship.

Recently, Leong was listed as one of the 50 finalists for the inaugural Global Student Award 2021. He was selected among 3,500 nominations from 94 countries.

A US$100,000 (RM417,850) award will be presented to one exceptional student to make an impact on learning, the lives of their peers, and on society.

This is not the first time that Leong has been a finalist for an international event, as he has won the CIMP Diamond Service Award (100+ hours of community service) and the CIMP Highest Distinction for Economics (99%).

He was also a FedEx/JA International Trade Challenge Asia Pacific finalist and champion of the MyPerintis Technology Innovation Challenge.

How did it feel to be listed as a finalist for the Global student award?
“I was grateful that it shed some light on my work in cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset and equipping youth with financial literacy and work readiness skills.

“I hope my story would inspire others to take similar initiatives, which could then create an impactful ripple effect across society.”

If you win the Global Student Award, what would you do?
“I would donate a portion of the funds to the JA Malaysia programme for rural schools, a sum to JA Worldwide/Asia Pacific, and use the rest to fund my own higher education majoring in Economics.”

What inspired you to encourage the younger generation to cultivate entrepreneurship and financial literacy?
“I had a traumatic experience in how bad financial planning and irrational business decisions can affect our lives and the livelihood of others. I hope no other youth would experience the feeling of having their head just above the water.”

Why do you think the younger generation needs knowledge on entrepreneurship and financial literacy?
“Entrepreneurship education cultivates youth to become risk-takers, and equips them with skills demanded in the digital era, while financial literacy promotes sound financial planning that will benefit their financial position as they go through adulthood.”

How do you create awareness about financial literacy among young people?
“I amplified JA’s initiative in building a financially capable generation with corporate partners, in hopes of providing a more holistic financial literacy programme while reaching millions around the world.”

As a youth advocate, what is your hope for the future?
“I hope our youth could create purpose-driven businesses that would produce a more equitable workforce while promoting sustainability.”

How did your work in JAWorldwide benefit you?
“I started my journey at Junior Achievement (JA) with JA Malaysia three years ago when I was 16. At JA Malaysia, I was wearing multiple hats but my focus was bringing digital innovation to the programmes conducted. developed a multi-vendor e-commerce platform, JAM Mall (, to provide thousands of Malaysian high school entrepreneurs a learning environment for digital marketing, online selling and data analytics.

“The platform processed orders worth more than RM48,000 in two months. I designed and conducted entrepreneurship workshops with a focus on e-commerce, data analysis, branding and digital growth strategies, impacting more than 41,000 students.

“Then, I became the Gather Reporter at JA Worldwide, amplifying incredible JA Alumni stories in the Asia Pacific region via digital media.

“Understanding that JA programme graduates have so much to offer, I re-energised and activated JA Alumni Asia Pacific to provide JA programme students an extended platform for continuous and lifelong growth.

“I spearheaded the JA Alumni initiative in 18 locations in Asia Pacific (Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, China, Philippines, Korea, Japan, India, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Brunei, Hong Kong, Guam, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Vietnam and Australia) to provide youth access to opportunities.

“In nine months, I activated seven alumni chapters, and in six months, the JA Alumni membership more than doubled.

“Being a JA alumnus is more than just having access to world-class opportunities for personal, career and venture growth. It is about being in a community of change-makers that makes the world a better place to live in.”

What is your future plan?
“I will be completing my undergraduate degree in Economics at the University of Calgary and in the future, I hope to transform the financial world into a more sustainable one.”


Who inspires you?
“My mum.”

Name an activity (social cause) that has impacted your life?
“FedEx/JA International Trade Challenge.”

Favourite holiday destination?
“Cameron Highlands.”

What skills did you pick up during MCO?
“Cutting my own hair!”