Microsoft YouthSpark Scholarship Provides Boost for Students with Disabilities to Pursue Higher Education

Singapore – 26 September 2014 — Four inspiring young Singaporeans with disabilities displayed excellent academic credentials, strong leadership potential and a passion for higher learning to be awarded the Microsoft YouthSpark Scholarship today. The Scholarship provides a welcomed boost for these students, each of them facing varying disabilities such as neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder of the nervous system, and hearing impairment, giving them funding support and valuable opportunities to achieve their full potential via higher education.

Among the scholarship recipients is 22-year-old William Tay, who lost his hearing to illness at the age of four. William was cited in Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s National Day Rally Speech last month for showing resolve, strength and character in overcoming challenges. Due to his hearing disability, William worked doubly hard to achieve outstanding academic results and graduated from ITE College Central last year with a perfect Grade Point Average (GPA) and won the Rotary-ITE Student Excellence Awards in the same year. William is now a proud recipient of the Microsoft YouthSpark Scholarship and is currently in his first year pursuing a Diploma in Infocomm Security Management at Singapore Polytechnic.

Launched in 2009, the Microsoft YouthSpark Scholarship was incorporated to nurture and develop promising local youths with disabilities to achieve their full potential. Each year, the Scholarship selects four recipients, providing them with annual funding for IT-related diplomas or degree courses offered by local polytechnics and universities.

The Scholarship is part of the global initiative Microsoft YouthSpark, 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 organizations and businesses, programs under Microsoft YouthSpark will empower youth to imagine and realize their full potential by connecting them with greater education, employment and entrepreneurship opportunities.

“The Microsoft YouthSpark Scholarship is currently into its fifth year, and we are proud to be able to continue bringing the YouthSpark initiative to the local community, making a real impact in lives that matter. The driving force behind the scholarship program is connecting students with disabilities with meaningful support and opportunities, to help them to secure gainful employment and serve as good role models in encouraging other disabled students to strive for success. We are heartened to be able to play an integral part in the lives of these young Singaporeans, “said Ms Jessica Tan, Managing Director, Microsoft Singapore.

“We congratulate these four remarkable Scholarship recipients, and wish them the very best in achieving success in their respective fields. We hope that the Microsoft YouthSpark Scholarship will continue to inspire young Singaporeans to imagine and strive to fulfill their greatest potential in the years to come,” she continued.

“It is a great honor for me to be one of the Microsoft YouthSpark Scholarship recipients. I am thankful for Microsoft Singapore’s faith in me and I hope this signifies a big step forward toward realizing my dream of becoming an infocomm security professional in the field of IT after graduation,” said William Tay.

Besides William, the three other youths who will be receiving the Scholarship include Carmen Kok, a 23-year-old first-year student in Business Enterprise IT at Nanyang Polytechnic; Lee Yan Xin; a 19-year-old second-year student in Computer Engineering at Temasek Polytechnic and Neilson Cheong, a 23-year-old first-year student pursuing a Degree in Computing Science at the Singapore Institute of Technology.

Carmen Kok was diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis II, a disorder that disturbs cell growth in her nervous system, causing tumors to form on nerve tissues, in 2008. She now relies on a wheelchair to get around following complications from an operation on the condition that led to a spinal cord injury. Physically and emotionally drained by the regular therapy sessions and her disability, Carmen recently picked up renewed courage to pursue higher education following years of rehabilitation and strong support from her family. She said, “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.”

This year’s Microsoft YouthSpark Scholarship Award Ceremony was held in conjunction with the Towards An Inclusive Workforce 2014 event organized by the Infocomm Accessibility Centre (IAC) which is managed by SPD, formerly the Society for the Physically Disabled. Over 100 participants attended the event and heard from people with disabilities who have gone on to be successful in their respective careers as a result of sheer determination and with the help of technology.

Topics covered at the event include:

  • Breaking Barriers through Technology, by Dr Yeo Sze Ling, Research Analyst at A*Star and Adjunct Assistant Professor at NTU; recipient of the Singapore Youth Award in 2012
  • Technology in the Workplace, by Mr Tan Chuan Hoh, Senior Assistive Technology Specialist, Specialised Assistive Technology Centre (ATC) at SPD and Mr Michael Lee, Trainer at IAC
  • A Part of the Singapore Workforce¸ by Ms Sarah Yong, Clinical Head, Specialised ATC at SPD


Ms Joyce Wong, Director of Services Division, SPD, said, “SPD is committed to helping people with disabilities become self-reliant and financially independent. We hope that via the initiatives of the Infocomm Accessibility Centre, we can equip people with disabilities with practical skills that are essential for the workforce of today. We also hope to create a platform that opens doors to suitable employment opportunities that can enable them to play a part in contributing to the mainstream workforce.”