Jeremiah Oon, the silent overachiever

Jeremiahs_StoryThough Jeremiah Oon, 24, was robbed of his hearing at the age of three, he did not allow that to set him back and instead went on to clinch not one but two scholarships. We learn his inspirational story at the Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD) with the help of a computer and a screen.

1. Please share your story with our readers.

When I was born, I could hear. However, I had a high fever around the age of 3. My parents were worried about my future and tried several ways to recover my hearing loss. These ways did not work. At last, they brought me to Canossian School, a special school for the hearing impaired.

Instead of practicing my speech, I played pranks – running and fighting for instance – with my primary school friends. I even threw tantrums at teachers. I shouted at them when they reprimanded me for the wrong things I did. I did not obey my parents and teachers because I was not mature then. When I was in primary six, I caused so much trouble in school that my teacher recommended my parents to bring me to a child psychiatrist. I could not control my bad temper and helped help there.

However, when I entered a new secondary school, Balestier Hill Secondary School (BHSS), I met new hearing friends for the first time. I felt shy as it was hard to communicate with them. But I took my initiative and used paper. Mobile phones weren't allowed in schools at that time.

2. How did you communicate and learn in your secondary school then?

There were Hearing Impaired (HI) Resource teachers in BHSS. Their roles are to interpret for deaf students during lessons – through the use of sign language – and to assist them in learning subjects.

3. How did you do?

When I was in Secondary 1 and 2, I scored well in all subjects except for English. I practiced very hard for them and sought help from the HI Resource teachers, who were very helpful and willing to go the extra mile.

4. From being a naughty kid to a hardworking youth… what caused the change?

I stopped thinking of the negative and I could focus on my future. I also learned to take the initiative and took action. Never mind I am hearing impaired and cannot speak very well; I can still be bold when I want to communicate with people.

Deafness is an invisible disability. People assume that I am hearing when they meet me for the first time.

5. And you eventually got to studying your second year of Computer Studies at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), funded by Microsoft. Why did you choose NTU?

NTU has a Regular Service Project for HI under the Welfare Service Centre. I want to participate in these projects to help deaf children and raise the awareness of deafness in Singapore too.

6. You must have gone through a lot to get to where you are now. How did you do it?

I feel that no one student should be left behind – regardless of their ability, or disability.

One challenge I faced was handling presentations required for project work. There are many ways to show my presentation. For instance, I can contribute my efforts to my groups by writing more notes, researching more, and preparing the powerpoint slides, which my group mate would relate on my behalf. An alternative way I did was also to show my presentation notes on the powerpoint slides and hand it in to the lecturers.

Though the Computer Science degree program is difficult to study with significant emphasis on theory, I enjoyed studying the modules as they challenged me to think out of the box.

7. So what are your future plans? Does it have to do with your degree?

Upon graduation, I want to work as a software engineer. I also wish to become a web application developer. Eventually, I would like to set up my business to sell IT software and develop software for companies.

8. What advice would you give to young people like yourself?

Never say die! Always think positively even when facing difficulties in life. We must HOPE (Have Optimistic Positive Expectations). These expectations are to be realistic so they could actually be achieved too!

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