Students with Disabilities Awarded the Microsoft YouthSpark Scholarship to Pursue Higher Education in IT Fields

Singapore, 18 September 2015 — Five scholarships were awarded to outstanding young Singaporeans with disabilities at the Microsoft YouthSpark Scholarship Awards Ceremony 2015 today, up from the four scholarships disbursed annually in previous years. Given to students who demonstrate excellent academic credentials, strong leadership potential and a passion for higher learning, this year’s scholarship recipients impressed the judging panel with their inspiring display of strength, courage and resilience in overcoming a variety of physical and sensory challenges, including macular dystrophy (vision impairment), hearing impairment, osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bones disease) and Asperger’s syndrome.

Among this year’s batch of scholarship recipients is second-time beneficiary, 21-year-old Ang Chin Hao, who was born with macular dystrophy, a rare genetic disorder that causes vision loss. Due to his vision impairment, Chin Hao initially struggled to keep up with his studies as he had difficulties reading from the projector screen in class. However, with the support of his teachers, Chin Hao worked doubly hard and was eventually awarded the Microsoft YouthSpark Scholarship in 2013 to pursue a Diploma in Engineering Informatics at Nanyang Polytechnic. Through his perseverance and hard work, Chin Hao graduated from Nanyang Polytechnic with a Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.7 and was among the top 15 percent of his cohort. Today, Chin Hao is a proud second-time recipient of the Microsoft YouthSpark Scholarship, and is currently pursuing a Degree in Engineering (Computer Engineering) at the Nanyang Technological University.

Launched in 2009 and administered by SPD, an organisation that supports people with disabilities, the Microsoft YouthSpark Scholarship was incorporated to help promising local youths with disabilities pursue higher learning in Information Technology (IT) related fields, and enable them to achieve their full potential. Each year, the scholarship provides recipients with the necessary financial support by funding IT-related diplomas or degree courses offered by local polytechnics and universities. The annual quantum for the scholarship is S$12,000 for degree courses and S$5,000 for diploma courses.

The Scholarship is also part of the Microsoft YouthSpark global 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.

“We are happy to be able to renew our commitment to the community for people with disabilities through the Microsoft YouthSpark Scholarship again this year. Since we started the scholarship programme in 2009, we have awarded a total of 28 scholarships and committed over S$300,000 in financial support to help students with disabilities pursue tertiary education in IT-related fields. This year, we are heartened to see that these youths did not allow their disabilities to be barriers to what they want to achieve in life. In fact, they have such a strong sense of purpose and are focused on the impact that they want to create,” said Ms Jessica Tan, Managing Director, Microsoft Singapore.

“We congratulate these five remarkable scholarship recipients, and commend them for their positive spirit in overcoming the many challenges that life has thrown their way. We wish them the very best and hope that the Microsoft YouthSpark Scholarship will continue to inspire young Singaporeans to keep dreaming and striving for the best they can be,” she continued.

“I am very happy to be receiving the Microsoft YouthSpark Scholarship for the second time. The first scholarship that I received two years ago spurred me on to achieve good grades in Nanyang Polytechnic. With this second scholarship, I hope I can achieve even more in university and realise my dream of becoming an IT businessman. I also hope that this will encourage other students with disabilities to not give up, and keep pushing themselves to live life to the fullest, as our disabilities do not disqualify us from achieving success,” said Ang Chin Hao.

Besides Chin Hao, the four other youths who will be receiving the Scholarship include Mohamed Najulah, a 19-year-old second-year student in Business Information Technology at Singapore Polytechnic; Er Xue Hui, a 20-year-old first-year student in Computing and Computer Science at the National University of Singapore; Then An Zhi, a 22-year-old first-year student in Engineering at Nanyang Technological University; and Daryl Loh, an 18-year-old first-year Infocomm Security Management student at Singapore Polytechnic.

Mohamed Najulah was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic brittle bones disorder that caused him to rely on a wheelchair to move around. Originally intending to pursue a Diploma in Computer Engineering, Najulah was told to apply for an alternative course as the mobility requirements for an engineer were too physically demanding for him. Unfazed by the setback, Najulah went on to pursue a Diploma in Business Information Technology at Singapore Polytechnic, and was subsequently awarded the Director’s Honour Roll for his stellar academic performance. Najulah is now in his second-year of the Diploma course and was part of the winning team that took the People’s Choice Award at the Transport and You(th) Hackathon organised by the Land Transport Authority of Singapore (LTA) in April this year. 

This year’s Microsoft YouthSpark Scholarship Award Ceremony was held in conjunction with the Towards an Inclusive Workforce 2015 event jointly organised by SPD, and supported by SG Enable and the Singapore Workforce Development Agency. Into its fifth year this year, TIWF aims to promote inclusive hiring practices in Singapore.

Over 100 participants comprising employers and representatives from institutes of higher learning attended the event at NTUC Business Centre. They heard from employers as well as assistive technology and job support specialists who shared best practices on how employers can do their part to support people with disabilities at work.

Topics covered at the event include:
Best Practices of Employers in Supported Employment for Persons with Disabilities, by Mr Christy Lynch, Chief Executive Officer, KARE Ireland
Assistive Technology at Work, by Mr Ivan Tan, Manager of e-Accessibility at SPD and Ms Elizabeth Chua, Senior Employment Support Specialist at SPD
Building an Inclusive Environment – The Disability Lens of GS Asia, by Mr Hew Kin Chan, Executive Director, Goldman Sachs

“People with disabilities have work potential. When given the opportunity, job accommodation and support, they too can contribute to the economic growth of Singapore. We are encouraged by the help of Microsoft Singapore in supporting the IT-related aspirations of students with disabilities, and our partners SG Enable and WDA in advancing the employment of people with disabilities, and hope that inclusive hiring will become second nature, and not initiated as a corporate social responsibility exercise,” said Mr Abhimanyau Pal, Executive Director, SPD.