SENIA Student Award

[News] Meet the SENIA Honorary Student Awardees 2017

The SENIA Student Award is search for exceptional students who advocate for special needs in Asia. The winner of the SENIA Student Award for 2017 is Casey Stevenson.

There are many excellent nominees who also received the SENIA Student Honorary Award citation. It is our privilege to present to you the other SENIA Student Award nominees who also inspire many with their lives and advocacy. Meet the SENIA Student Honorary Award 2017 recipients.

johnnepJohn V. Nepomuceno
is a college student from the University of Santo Tomas Philippines. Before his formal ADHD diagnosis, John experienced challenges including hyperactivity, lack of focus and poor executive functioning. He faced academic failures and challenges in learning. After undergoing his therapies, John has overcome his challenges and has learned strategies that address his needs. As an advocate for ADHD, John has spoken in high profile events including those sponsored by the Occupational Therapy Association of the Philippines and the ADHD Society of the Philippines. John’s heart to help other learners with special needs drove him to enroll in the William Glasser Institute where he garnered a certification of Basic Intensive Training in Choice Therapy, Reality Therapy and Lead Management. His leadership abilities shone through during his campaign to be the Auditor for the Student Council. John’s positive influence in his college is commendable.

kanKan Jiraphongtrakul is a student-athlete from Concordian International School Thailand. Diagnosed with dyslexia, Kan experienced difficulties in reading, writing, spelling, short-term memory, time management, organization and mathematics. Still, with hardwork and perseverance, Kan is enrolled in the full IB diploma program. Kan is also an exceptional athlete and has won the coveted Most Valuable Player accolade in the areas of volleyball and basketball. Kan advocated for dyslexia through a community program he initiated called “Can You Read Me?”, a treasure hunt for primary students and their parents allowing them to empathize with people with dyslexia. 



Nathan Marcus V. Canon is a student diagnosed with bilateral, profound, sensorineural hearing loss. Due to his condition, his speech developed late and was imperfect. Nathan advocates for learners with similar condition as his. He speaks to students, parents and educators about his experiences. He visited Singapore to speak on his experiences with hearing implants for an audience of parents and children at the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital. Nathan is also a creative student. His artwork was selected to be part of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Artlink 2008-2009 exhibition entitled “Windows: Looking in, Looking out”. Nathan’s leadership is exhibited by his election as class representative during his grade school years and now as Treasurer of the Student Council. Nathan also volunteers as an artist for Teach Peace Build Peace Foundation’s storybook project. If these accomplishments are not inspiring enough, Nathan also learned to play musical instruments such as guitar and the keyboard in spite of his hearing loss.   (more…)

[News] Casey Stevenson wins SENIA Student Award 2017


Casey Elaine Stevenson, a student of Brent International School, is the winner of the SENIA Student Award 2017. The SENIA Student Award honors a student with a disability who excels and advocates for the aspirations of children and youth with disabilities in Asia.

Casey is a strong advocate for special needs inspired by her own personal experiences with disability. Casey started struggling with depression and anxiety when she entered her teenage years. After seeing a psychologist, it became clear that she also has characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder that was previously unidentified. Aside from her personal challenges, Casey also witnessed the challenges of her older sister who has a neurological disorder called Rett Syndrome. Casey’s love for her sister, who she considers her best friend, inspires her advocacy. In her personal statement, Casey said that “She is the main reason I advocate, to help others like her.” (more…)

SENIA Student Award 2017 nominations now open!

ig_nom_studentThe Special Education Network in Asia (SENIA), a network of educators, professionals and parents across Asia dedicated to supporting individuals with special learning needs is looking for the next SENIA Student Award winner.

With more than 10 years of advocacy for special education, SENIA is awarding the SENIA Student Award 2017. Last year’s SENIA Student Award went to Tobin Zolkowski. Honorary award winners may be viewed here.

The SENIA Student Award honors a student with a disability who excels. It celebrates the achievements of a child or youth with disabilities; encourages awareness of the abilities and aspirations of children/youth with disabilities; and advocates in behalf of exceptional children in Asia. Nominations may be made by anyone. The winner of the SENIA Student Award will receive a trophy, two nights’ accommodations and flights to attend the SENIA 2014 Singapore Conference.

For information about the SENIA Student Award, please visit the SENIA Student Award website. The deadline for nominations is on November 30, 2016.

[News] Tobin Zolkowski wins SENIA Student Award 2016

1Tobin Zolkowski, a student of Jakarta International School (JIS), is the winner of the SENIA Student Award 2016. The SENIA Student Award honors a student with a disability who excels and advocates for the aspirations of children and youth with disabilities in Asia.

Tobin is a strong advocate for the Deaf community. As the only student in his school with a hearing disability, Tobin actively worked to break down barriers and raise awareness for the Deaf. He advocates for himself by standing in front of an assembly of 900 during his first day of 10th grade. He shared his story and encouraged students to interact with him and learn a few signs to communicate with him. He founded an American Sign Language club for students and teachers, which attracted more than 90 members in its first year. He has provided American Sign Language translation for two eBooks which are available commercially including Alistair the Armadillo and Aste the Slowest CheetahTobin is also creating an online course to teach Indonesian Sign Language. Further advancing his advocacy, Tobin serves as an ASL interpreter during workshops with the National Association of the Deaf.

Tobin’s strength of character and advocacy has inspired those around him. A classmate said: “I am so thankful I’ve known Tobin as a classmate and friend for the past 5 years. I’ve come to learn how natural it is to be around someone who speaks sign language and how much he can teach others. He has helped me understand that just because someone
is different, it doesn’t mean they don’t have something important to offer.” One of his teachers expressed that: “Tobin’s resilience, dedication and advocacy are second to none.”

Congratulations Tobin Zolkowski! We look forward to meeting you at SENIA 2016 at the International School Kuala Lumpur!

Carolina Minton-Frias wins SENIA Student Award 2015

SENIA-CarolinaCarolina Minton-Frias, a student of West Academy of Beijing, wins the SENIA Student Award 2015. The SENIA Student Award honors a student with a disability who excels and advocates for the aspirations of children and youth with disabilities in Asia.

Carolina was born with a cleft palate and had to undergo four surgeries. Aside from this, she suffered from multiple ear infections, scoliosis, gluten intolerance and learning challenges including ADHD, dyslexia and dysgraphia.

Even with all her difficulties, Carolina has raised money for surgery of other children who have cleft palate. She is also a prime mover of the New Hope Foundation which has programs for orphans in need of medical care from across China. When Carolina was in 6th grade, she received the title of “Difference Maker” from Rick Hanson Foundation. Her leadership in fundraising for Operation Smile and her work with Locks of Love were cited by the foundation.

Ever the change agent, Carolina presented a TEDxYouth talk at her school. Watch Carolina and be inspired.

Beijing international student wins SENIA Student Award

Celeste Palmer riding a horse.

Celeste Palmer riding a horse.

Celeste Palmer, a Grade 6 student from the Western Academy of Beijing, is the third recipient of the Special Education Network in Asia (SENIA) Student Award. The SENIA Student Award honors a student with a disability who excels and advocates for the aspirations of children and youth with disabilities in Asia.

Celeste will be receiving her award at the SENIA 2014 Conference to be held in the United World College East Campus, Singapore on February 28 to March 1, 2014. Past recipients of the award include Andrea Zubiri and Samantha Johnson.

Having suffered a stroke before birth on the right side of her brain, Celeste developed hemiplegia and has difficulties with visual and spatial skills. She also has dyslexia and visual-spatial dyspraxia. Despite these challenges, Celeste exhibits a go-getter attitude, is passionate and confident.

Celeste has delivered a TED-X talk about saving stray animals. She is also an active student leader who advocates for all students. She lives her “come on, you can do it!” attitude as she achieve milestone after milestone. Told that she will not be able to ride a bike, Celeste learned to ride a bike and ride a horse too! Celeste influence touches others in her school and beyond. Her sponsor expressed that “due to Celeste magic influence, her year group shows concern for others, are thoughtful, kinder and considerate of others.”

“Save All Strays” by Celeste Palmer

SENIA also wishes to recognize the honorary SENIA Student Award winners including Charlie Taborda, Dominique Hilker, Justine Mallory Cham, Mark Daza, Robin Nicole Castañeda and Theo Thummim Miguel.