Cerebral palsy no barrier

Business student Mark Wilson has proven cerebral palsy is no barrier to academic success.

When Mark Wilson was younger his parents were told he’d never walk or talk.

Born with cerebral palsy, a disorder that affects around 7000 New Zealanders, Mark has had to overcome more than most.

He’s had to endure high school bullies, and the challenges that come with not being able to write or type.

But Mark was bright and had a keen interest in the business world. He finally got a break after meeting Peter Richardson, head of business at Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology, at the end of Year 12 in 2013.

“When I met Peter he wanted to talk to me – not my parents. That’s the first time I’ve ever had that. Peter just asked me what I wanted to study and found a way to make it happen. I can’t believe how easy he made it.”

Now, after four and a half years of hard slog, Mark has his New Zealand Diploma in Business, and is about to graduate with a Bachelor of Management Studies from the University of Waikato, in partnership with Toi Ohomai.

Reflecting on the transition from high school to tertiary life, he admits it wasn’t always easy.

“The first week was terrifying. There were times during my study when I couldn’t see the light at the end of tunnel, but I kept going. It helped that the people were friendly, and the disability team at Toi Ohomai really had my back.”

With his newfound financial and strategic business knowledge, Mark is keeping busy helping his parents with their business, Aluminium Artistry.

“I’m trying to bring them up to speed with the 21st century. It’s good to be able to repay them a little bit for what they’ve done for me.”

Mark also donates his time to Trillian Trek, a charity helping sick, underprivileged and disadvantaged children around New Zealand.

The goal from here for the tenacious 22-year-old is to find a job in his field.

“I’d like to get a job in finance. I’m just waiting on confirmation from the university now. It will be good to finally hang the degree on the wall.”

Mark wants people to know that having cerebral palsy doesn’t mean you can’t achieve your dreams.

“Hopefully I’ve shown people with cerebral palsy can accomplish just as much as anyone can. I get a kick out of surprising people. They can’t believe that I can drive, or that I’ve done a degree.

“It’s all about awareness – someone might see me and think ‘if he can do it, I might give it a go.’”