Special needs teen is ‘world changer’

WITH a desire to be seen as “a capable individual who can contribute to society like the others”, special needs learner Alexius Ignatius at Keningau Vocational College, Sabah, often goes the extra mile in extending help wherever he can.

Having recently been named the recipient of the Special Education Network & Inclusion Association (Senia) World Changer Award for the month of September, the Papar-born teenager is even more determined to continue doing good work for the community.

“I want to take part in community projects more often once I graduate. I might start my own initiative or startup that focuses on sports or arts,” the 17-year-old told StarEdu.His positive attitude and volunteer spirit had first won the recognition of his teacher Sirhajwan Idek, who consequently nominated him for the award, which recognises individuals who actively promote inclusion in the community while supporting Senia’s mission and vision to advocate for a world where every individual is supported, resources are accessible, potential is maximised and action is inspired.

Among the good work Alexius has done included lending a helping hand in his college’s art, sports and fundraising activities.

As the only special needs learner in his college’s theatre team, he volunteered to help with the props so the other members could focus on acting in preparation for the district drama competition which they subsequently won.

“Sometimes, people were hesitant to ask for my help, so I assured them by saying I would try my best to assist them,” he shared.

He was also the student manager of his college’s softball team, which placed second in a district tournament.

“Sports require great teamwork so I always make sure that I play both roles as a team player and as a leader like leading the practice for recruits,” he said, adding that it is important to give everyone an equal chance to play and practise in order to maintain good relationships among players.

He also led the college’s special needs education department in organising a series of fundraising activities to fund the students’ field trips.

“I had experience in fundraising with the student council where we sold cakes and fritters to students. I replicated this by getting special needs learners to do the same under my guidance,” he shared.

Recently, Alexius has also gained recognition for himself through his participation in a virtual storytelling contest – last May, he became the first Malaysian to win a gold medal at Brazil’s International Competition and Festival of Arts “Ritmos Brasileiros” 2022 through his animated tale entitled “Timbalun”.

“The whole process of producing the tale under my teacher’s guidance taught me to imagine myself in someone’s shoes, since this was important for me to play the characters properly.

“I am really proud of my achievement since it proved that special needs learners can do anything that everyone else is doing,” he said on his gold medal win.

Crediting his mother Shennie Lyn Ignatius with being the source of his inspiration, Alexius said she has been very encouraging in everything he does.

He also expressed his gratitude to his teachers and peers who, he said, have given him much trust.

To his special needs peers, Alexius had this to say: “You are not disabled; you are gifted, special and unique.

“Everyone has their battles, so it is important to understand that everyone struggles with something.”

Sirhajwan said Alexius’ achievements illustrated the importance of having educators supporting their students in everything they do.

“Alexius is known at school for his excellent traits. He is the friendliest student here. He always volunteers to help anyone and is always positive,” he said, adding that Alexius’ compassion is commendable and exemplary.

Congratulating Alexius on his Senia award, college director Johari @ Jaibet Sabin said the accomplishment can raise public awareness of the capability and credibility of special needs individuals, who deserve more opportunities to contribute to society.

Nur Alia Irdina, 18, a student in Selangor, is a participant of the BRATs Young Journalist Programme run by The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) team. To join Star-NiE’s online youth community, go to facebook.com/niebrats.

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