Enabling Possibilities for Disabled Youth with YouthSpark Scholarship

While achieving greatness is never easy, the path to success for those with a disability can seem harder and more daunting. The lack of educational and economic opportunities can be a key hurdle that many disabled youth face in finding future success.

To help address this issue, Microsoft Singapore launched the YouthSpark Scholarship programme in 2009 to empower local students with disabilities to reach their full potential and achieve academic success. Each year, four recipients are awarded with annual funding for IT-related diplomas or degree courses offered by local polytechnics and universities.

Microsoft YouthSpark 2014 Scholars with Singapore President Dr Tony Tan (centre), Ms Jessica Tan, Managing Director for Microsoft Singapore (far right) and Ms Chia Yong, President of SPD (left, seated) after the Award Ceremony

This year’s scholarships were awarded during a recent Infocomm Accessibility Centre (IAC) event, “Towards an Inclusive Workforce 2014”. The recipients each demonstrated excellent academic credentials, strong leadership potential and a passion for creativity, higher learning and innovation.

Among the students selected this year is 22-year-old William Tay, who displayed great resolve to excel in his academic pursuits despite having lost his hearing to illness at the age of four.

William graduated from ITE College Central in 2013 with a perfect Grade Point Average (GPA) and won the Rotary-ITE Student Excellence Awards. Currently a first-year Infocomm Security Management student at Singapore Polytechnic, William was cited in Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s most recent National Day Rally speech as an exemplary individual who has demonstrated his strength and character in overcoming adversity.

Another inspiring individual is Carmen Kok, a Business Enterprise IT student at Nanyang Polytechnic. Diagnosed in 2008 with Neurofibromatosis II, a genetic disorder of the nervous system, Carmen has to rely on a wheelchair to get around. But that did not stop the 23-year-old student from pursuing a higher education, following years of rehabilitation and support from her family.

“Being a Microsoft YouthSpark Scholarship recipient has given me great encouragement and confidence. I hope to do well in my studies and inspire others to not give up pursuing excellence despite their disabilities,” Carmen said.

Fellow recipient Lee Yan Xin, a second-year Temasek Polytechnic student, has never let her hearing impairment get in the way of chasing her dreams of becoming a software programmer. Always displaying a positive attitude towards learning, the 19-year-old picked up lip reading to better communicate with others. On top of her academic achievements, Yan Xin has participated in various national competitions as a member of her school's Digital Media Club, as well as community events such as the Walk for Rice Charity Drive in 2009 and 2011.

Class Chairman, Vice-President of his school's Mobile and Wireless Computing Special Interest Group, and a volunteer at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in 2010 are just a few of the many impressive accomplishments that led to 23-year-old Neilson Cheong being selected for this year's YouthSpark scholarship.

Despite being diagnosed with a functionally dead left ear when he was seven, Neilson's zeal for knowledge and self-determination has empowered him to seek greater achievements in the IT field. He is currently pursuing a degree in Computing Science at the Singapore Institute of Technology.

“The scholarship recipients have displayed great resolve and worked hard to achieve success in their academic pursuits. These young people are inspirations, not only to other students with special needs, but to all of us. They have not seen the challenges they face as limitations. We are heartened that through the scholarship programme, we are able to play a part in supporting their aspirations and learning journey,” said Jessica Tan, Managing Director of Microsoft Singapore.

 Microsoft YouthSpark 2014 recipients (L-R) : William Tay, Carmen Kok, Lee Yan Xin and Nielson Cheong

The YouthSpark Scholarship is part of Microsoft’s YouthSpark programme, a global initiative which aims to bridge the opportunity gap between youth who have the resources to achieve academic excellence and higher education and those who do not. Microsoft hopes to create opportunities for 300 million youth, in over 100 countries, by 2015.

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