Felix is a regular student: he’s pretty good at school and has a good GPA score. Like many of his peers at Nanyang Poly, he’s pretty immersed in his Co-Curricular Activity - Dragon Boating and spends hours paddling to the beat of the drums on our waterways.
He’s also one of NYP’s poster boys – he was selected almost immediately through the auditions for his wholesome good looks. In fact, he is the main model on the Poly’s posters for the upcoming Open House on Jan 04 to 06, 2018.
So why the column inches on Felix? You see, his ordinariness is nothing short of extraordinary. The first-year student from the Diploma in Nanotechnology & Materials Science is profoundly deaf.
Unless you are his classmates, lecturers and dragon boat buddies, and have been taken into his confidence, one would not be able to tell. The well-adjusted young man simply does not view his condition as a handicap. He simply finds ways to get through any situation.
For instance, classes are taken with aid from a Special Education Needs specialist who helps take down notes. But it is entirely on Felix to be pro-active, and self–reliant about researching and understanding the concepts, says the aide.
His lecturer says: “Any clarifications that he requires, he writes them down and consults us after classes, if time permits.” Otherwise, he makes appointments to meet at their offices or emails them.
Communication barriers? Nix that. Felix simply uses a mobile phone and types out messages to get it across to the other party.
Feeling very much at home at NYP, Felix loves how well he fits in. He appreciates how his lecturers and friends have never made him feel handicapped, and instead, have given him support and treated him like any of his other classmates. He looks forward to a bright future thanks to the rigours of the curriculum and NYP’s close industry ties putting him in good stead. The accessibility of his lecturers and learning resources are also major boons, he says.
When asked to describe himself in three words, he chose “adventurous, athletic and studious”. Probe a little more, and his brows furrows before he throws in “funny, friendly and obedient.”
Obviously discomfited by the attention this reporter gives him, this young man brightens up visibly when asked about dragon boating. He shyly admits that he wasn’t exactly proficient at swimming when he signed up, and his mother was worried about his decision. But his team mates have totally taken the freshman under their wings. Today, his CCA mates are now his best and closest buddies on campus. They tease each, banter and muck about, just like regular youths. Some of his teammates have even learned sign language to communicate better with him. (See story below.)
Felix hopes that his lifestyle as an NYPian will move his deaf peers to come out of their shells, and to enjoy the polytechnic experience. Seeking to build up leadership skills, he hopes to encourage deaf youths to build stronger self-confidence and self-esteem. He participates in camps organised by the World Federation for the Deaf Regional Secretariat for Asia, and previously volunteered as part of the organising committee for the 1st National Deaf Teen Camp 2017.
He wants to pursue a degree in National Technological University: “My personal motto is to stop focusing on the past, and start focusing on what is moving you forward.”
Because We Can
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Felix’s dragon boat CCA buddies took to him like fish to water. They readily accepted him as one of them. He enjoys the team spirit and how they treat him as a regular person, even though he is deaf.
“Some of my dragon boat mates, including the juniors, started learning basic sign language for my sake, although I didn’t ask them to do so. I’m touched that they wish to communicate with me in sign language for my convenience.”
They take Felix under their wings when it comes to training: Typing instructions on their mobile phones, actively including him in their land and sea training sessions and doing strength exercises at gym.
“Whenever I cannot endure tough training, my teammates will always push me through. It can be tough; for sea training on weekends, I have to be up at 5am or 6am. And, after that, we continue with more strength exercises and running. However, once we’re done with training, we will have our meals and chit-chats together.”
Fellow rower, Kamil has this to say: “Felix is very strong willed. He never gives up. He is very keen to be better for himself and the team. When he had difficulties with his strokes, he asked for videos to self-learn, and put in extra gym hours to improve his strength.”
Team captain, Sebastian added: “Felix is someone I respect a lot. It was really hard for him to follow the training initially. Training is also very tough and it isn’t easy to get through every session. We found ways to communicate with Felix, like learning basic signs, tapping him on his back and signalling him during training. His mental resilience and fortitude is really commendable. To many, being deaf might be a disability, but for Felix, it is not a disability at all.”