WilliamWilliam is a first-year student at the University of Ottawa studying Business. He is a 2016 Youth Bursary recipient and a member of DUCA CU.

William is an exceptional young man dealing with a life altering condition. With his permission, we are sharing his story.

In his application, he wrote, “I wasn’t always a visually impaired person, Stargardt’s Disease, the genetic disorder I have, only awakes at the onset of puberty. Up to grade 5, I had good vision and therefore I had a normal childhood in the vision department with most things, whether they be school, learning to shoot, or playing baseball, came easily to me. When Stargardt’s entered my life, it challenged me and my ability to succeed in ways that I never could have imagined. From learning how to advocate for myself, to developing a great visual memory, to mastering practical problem solving, my disability has not only hindered me but has also forced me to overcome some of my greatest weaknesses thereby giving me a drive and ability to succeed I didn’t know I had.”

William didn’t let his condition slow him down, he was a DECA (International Business Competition) Provincial Finalist in 2013, 2014, and 2015. He was the student council treasurer his last two years of high school managing a budget of $30,000. He has been involved with Sea Cadets for many years and currently holds the rank of Petty Officer Second Class. This put him second in command of the Guelph Sea Cadet Corp. He provided weekly instruction to a group of junior and intermediate cadets, created lesson plans and oversaw other instructors. He says “I lead by example and help the new recruits assimilate to the program.” He organized the drill and ceremonial team who perform in parades (Santa Claus Parade, Remembrance Day Parade) and commemorative ceremonies (Battle of the Atlantic, Colour Day) in Guelph throughout the year.

We have a section on our bursary application “Extenuating Circumstances.” We want to better understand the challenges applicants might be facing. William titled his “My Abilities vs. My Disability” and wrote a compelling essay, not to elicit sympathy, but to create understanding. He said he has become a relaxed and confident public speaker, and developed the ability to face unique problems with highly individualized problem solving skills.

William summed it up nicely, saying “Disability or ability; those are words. Stargardt’s, instead, has helped me to think beyond the idea of disability and to take action so that I can become the best person I can be.”

William, you are an inspiration!