Three university undergraduates, (from left) Teo Zi Lin, Sarah Lim and Joshua Ong, received this year’s Asia Pacific Breweries (APB) Foundation Scholarship for Persons with Disabilities from Guest-of-Honour Mr Ang Wei Neng, Member of Parliament for Jurong GRC, in a ceremony held at the Enabling Village on 22 September.
The trio was lauded not only for their exceptional academic results but also their contributions and achievements away from the academics, as well as resilience in overcoming their disabilities.
Let’s get to know our scholars this year:
Teo Zi Lin, 20
First-year Communications and New Media student at the National University of Singapore
Teo Zi Lin had high fever when she was 8 years old and that illness affected her hearing and speech development. As a result, Zi Lin now wears hearing aids in both ears. She grew up being self-conscious and avoided talking to others as she feared being judged. This went on for several years until she realised that she had to improve her communication skills, hence the decision to pursue a Diploma in Mass Communication at Ngee Ann Polytechnic in 2013.
While taking the Speech Communication module in her first semester, Zi Lin realised how poor her speaking skills were. Undeterred, she sought help from her lecturers when tackling assignments related to public speaking. Her peers would also correct her pronunciations in their daily conversations.
With strong resilience and determination, she got herself into the Director’s List in the first two years of her diploma studies and bagged numerous awards such as the Mediacorp Gold Medal & Prize, the Batey Ads Prize and the Singapore Press Holdings Prize. The 20-year-old completed her polytechnic studies with a valedictorian speech that drew overwhelming applause and cheers on graduation day.
Zi Lin hopes to be a role model for the disability community by encouraging others with disabilities to not give up in their pursuits of success.
She wants to be an ambassador to encourage others with hearing impairments.
“I hope to be a good example to the disability community, especially for people like me who have hearing impairments and wear hearing aids. Do not to be afraid of being discriminated or ridiculed. We have our strengths and should not give up in our pursuit of success,” said Zi Lin.
Sarah Lim, 20
Second-year Political Science student at the National University of Singapore
Sarah Lim was diagnosed with dyslexia and motor co-ordination difficulties when she was 7 years old. A re-assessment when she was 11 showed that Sarah also has sensory processing disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome. Her peers used to call her “that weirdo kid” in primary school. She was not aware that her actions, such as giving sudden hugs to her classmates to show affection, did not fit into social norms. It all became better after Sarah learnt more about social norms and put her counsellor’s advice into action.
Due to her learning disability, Sarah struggled to keep up with her schoolwork. While her peers were able to follow the lectures closely, Sarah had to rewrite her notes many times to register them, and practiced timed-essays after school to revise what was taught. Even as she has to play catch up after class, Sarah still puts aside time for her co-curricular activities and volunteering at two voluntary welfare organisations.
Sarah’s exceptional results in Combined Science won her book prizes in Secondary 3 and 4 and she topped her cohort in History and Literature in her first year at Catholic Junior College (CJC), and second for Literature in her final year. Sarah also made it on the Principal’s Honour Roll for both her mid-year and the preliminary examinations and went on to become CJC’s top scorer in the GCE ‘A’ Level examinations that year.
Inspired by her father who always taught her to help the less fortunate, Sarah aspires to pursue a doctorate in human rights and ethics in order to be an effective advocate for those in need.
She also plans to use her knowledge to research how Singapore’s social and political climate affects people with disabilities.
“My father had a massive stroke early this year. This experience has highlighted for me the need for better support for persons with disabilities who require medical help as they could be disadvantaged by their circumstances,” said Sarah on what motivates her to pursue her dreams.
Joshua Ong, 21
Second-year Linguistics & Multilingual Studies student at the Nanyang Technological University
Joshua Ong was diagnosed with Juvenile Open-Angle Glaucoma in 2011 when he was an Anglo-Chinese School student. At the time of diagnosis, the vision loss in his right eye was so severe that he could only perceive light and there was also significant peripheral loss of vision in his left eye.
Joshua has been told numerous times that his condition would limit his career options and his suitability for certain courses of study but the optimistic 21-year-old has never allowed such advice to divert him from the goals he sets his sights on. After his GCE ‘O’ levels, he pursued a Diploma in Law and Management at Temasek Polytechnic.
Joshua’s education journey hasn’t been all smooth-sailing. He underwent a total of eleven surgeries from his being diagnosed to graduating from polytechnic. In addition, Joshua’s poor eyesight resulted in him relying more on his hearing when he could not keep up with the high vision strain.
He is grateful to his course mates for helping him along by functioning as his “eyes”. They would often read text off the whiteboard or projector screens to him and help him catch up with lessons while he was recovering after surgery. His hard work paid off when he exceeded the expectations of his tutors by scoring a perfect 4.0 GPA in his final two semesters and topping his cohort in the Commercial Transactions module. He was also awarded the Derrick Wong & Lim BC prize.
Pursuing his Degree in Linguistics & Multilingual Studies at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) now, Joshua intends to pursue a double minor in Public Policy and Global Affairs (PPGA) and Communication Studies. He is also aspiring to read law at the postgraduate level and maintains a sharp interest in pursuing a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree at the Singapore Management University. He has set his sights on pursuing a career in diplomatic relations.
“Being awarded the APB Foundation Scholarship is among my greatest achievements. I hope to make the most out of this privileged opportunity by giving back to the disability and visually impaired community through advocating for more educational institutions to tailor-fit curriculums and make provisions for students with special needs,” said Joshua.