Singapore, 7 October 2016 — Four young Singaporeans with disabilities were awarded the Microsoft YouthSpark Scholarship to pursue tertiary education in information technology (IT) related fields at an awards ceremony held at ITE College Central today. Presented to students who demonstrate excellent academic credentials, strong leadership potential and a passion for higher learning, this year’s Microsoft YouthSpark Scholarship recipients impressed the judging panel with their inspiring display of bravery, determination and resilience in overcoming a variety of physical and sensory challenges, including autism spectrum disorder, hearing impairment and vision impairment.
Administered by SPD, an organisation that supports people with disabilities, this year’s Microsoft YouthSpark Scholarship saw a record three out of four recipients pursuing bachelor degree courses at local universities. This year’s Microsoft YouthSpark Scholarship recipients are:
Among this year’s batch of scholarship recipients is second-time beneficiary 22-year-old Tan Jian Hao, who was diagnosed with loss of hearing at the age of seven. While the loss of hearing had caused him to lack confidence and shy away when interacting with his peers, Jian Hao received encouragement from his family and friends, and began to lip-read and communicate through sign language. Over time, he regained confidence, and put in extraordinary effort into his studies to graduate with a Diploma in Engineering Informatics at Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP). Besides doing well in his studies, Jian Hao also excels in sports – having won a bronze medal in swimming for the Men’s 100M Freestyle category at the Singapore National Games 2014 – and is passionate about giving back to the community and helping others with disabilities.
“I’m really grateful to Microsoft for giving me this opportunity to receive the Microsoft YouthSpark Scholarship once again. The road to excelling in my studies has not always been easy, and I’m glad that my family and friends have been there throughout this journey to give me their biggest support and encouragement. Now that I’m receiving the scholarship for a second time, this gives me greater confidence in pushing through the challenges ahead and to further excel in life,” said Tan Jian Hao.
Another scholarship recipient, 19-year-old Noah Si, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at the age of four, which made it very challenging for him to engage in class activities meaningfully. Despite facing language difficulties and social barriers, Noah persevered and did well for his GCE ‘A’ Levels to qualify for a place at the National University of Singapore (NUS) to take up a double degree in Computer Science and Mathematics. Spurred by his newfound position as a Microsoft YouthSpark Scholarship recipient, Noah aspires to be a professor one day, blazing the path as a role model for fellow autistic youths to follow.
“We are honoured to have been given the privilege to make a difference to the lives of this year’s Microsoft YouthSpark Scholarship recipients. Jian Hao, Raymond, Jun Long and Noah have all displayed tremendous courage, resilience and determination to achieve what they have. We are already proud of them and hope that the scholarship will help them to go further and achieve great things in their lives,” said Jessica Tan, Managing Director, Microsoft Singapore.
“Initiatives such as the Scholarship helps us come closer to realising Microsoft’s mission to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more. In the era of the digital economy and of digital transformation throughout our working and social lives, we have the responsibility as digital leaders to ensure that technology contributes to creating a more inclusive community,” Tan continued.
“Information technology plays an important role in connecting and growing our nation. In line with SPD’s commitment to work in partnership with people with disabilities to develop their potential to the fullest, we are encouraged by the support from Microsoft Singapore in providing students with disabilities access to the education and opportunities to achieve their IT-related aspirations,” said SPD’s Executive Director, Mr Abhimanyau Pal.
Since the launch of the Microsoft YouthSpark Scholarship in 2009, Microsoft has awarded a total of 32 scholarships and committed close to S$380,000 in financial support for local students with disabilities. This year’s Microsoft YouthSpark Scholarship recipients will receive financial support to help them further their education in IT-related courses at local polytechnics or universities, with the annual value of the scholarship pegged at a maximum of S$12,000 for degree courses and up to S$5,000 for diploma courses.
This year’s Microsoft YouthSpark Scholarship Award Ceremony was held in conjunction with the SPD-ITE Conference on Inclusiveness: From Learners to Earners. Jointly organised by SPD and ITE, the event aimed to bring together and encourage collaborations between representatives from the disability sector, education institutions, employers and policy makers, to discuss what it means to be inclusive. The conference also sought to open up new perspectives among attendees from school to workplace, on topics including access and education, the untapped potential of fresh graduates to bring about economic and productivity gains for businesses, and how to bring about a more inclusive world.
“The support offered to students with special needs cannot stop at schools, it should be extended to help with their transition into the workforce. The scholarship recipients today have shared with us their aspirations and have shown so much potential to achieve their dreams. Through this conference, we hope employers will recognise the abilities and potential of individuals with special needs and give them equal opportunity to be part of mainstream workforce,” said Ms Low Yen Ling, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Education & Ministry of Trade and Industry, who was the Guest-of-Honour.
The Microsoft YouthSpark Scholarship is part of Microsoft’s global YouthSpark initiative, which aims to create opportunities for 300 million youths around the world and bridge the emerging opportunity divide between youths who have the access, skills and opportunities to be successful, and those who do not. Through partnerships with governments, non-profit organisations and businesses, programmes under Microsoft YouthSpark will empower youths to imagine and realise their full potential by connecting them with greater education, employment and entrepreneurship opportunities.