2014 Scholarship Recipient Michael Mielniczek

Photo of Michael standing on rocks with the lake behind him.
Congratulations Michael

Michael is a third year student at the University of Manitoba.

I met Michael five years ago and he was a typical teenager, he was so shy, but I could see that he was very focussed and he worked very hard at school.

Over those five years I watched him grow into a wonderful young man. He is one of the nicest people I have met. So kind, so polite and so respectful. Oh yes, I cannot forget about his sense of humour. He loves to laugh and that is so important is to laugh and have fun.

"Michael has dreams and goals that I truly believe he will achieve all of them."
Doris Koop, VIRN Executive Director

Michael's Story "Taking The Next Step"

To have low vision is one thing. Learning how to live life with low vision is another. Society itself is very visual based. From transportation, signage in an airport, to simply following along with content being presented on a board in class. The sense of sight can be safely regarded as one of the most, if not the most, relied upon sense. An individual who is born or acquires an eye disease or condition during childhood simply learns a new way of doing things, which of course would be easier to accept at such a young age than compared to an individual in his/her adolescence or adulthood. Acquiring an eye condition when a little bit older psychologically impacts an individual differently than when young because the process of sight diminishing would naturally appear or feel to be more of a dramatic, or sometimes traumatic, lifestyle change. Whether one would have acquired an eye condition early in life or later in life, emphasis on becoming or remaining active, physically and mentally, proves to be just as important.

The notion of being active should not serve as a mere distraction from one's feelings of sorrow, but rather should be seen as placing your foot down in determination of supporting one's new lifestyle in a positive manner. Of course one is able to participate in extracurricular activities in addition to assisting in the community, but what would be the purpose to do so if one wouldn't further develop as a person? The purpose of an activity is not only to have fun, socialize, etc, but to just as strongly make a difference; for one's self, and for others. Participating in VIRN VI Curling, Mobility, and Dragon Boating, prove to be living examples of what an active life should be. Not just for those who are in the vision impaired community, but also for those who simply require a boost of energy, activity, to push him/her in the right direction. To join a club, activity, or become involved in another capacity, may seem undesirable for those who are uncertain in moving forward. The concept of moving forward implies one would have to try something different, something out of one's comfort zone. Most individuals choose not to move forward in their life not because they want to sit at home all the time, or because they enjoy being a life-time student, but because many are not aware in how to do so. Participating in VIRN VI Curling and Mobility has personally taught me how to work with others in groups, to strategize, to be opened to ideas from others, to find different ways in accomplishing tasks, and most importantly, how to proceed in a task independently. Members of an organization, group, or activity, assist as a collective in order to learn how to assist for one's self - a family.

Just the same, participating in an extracurricular activity being a post-secondary student is just as important as participating in an organization like VIRN. During my second year of post-secondary, and now continuing in my third, have decided to take another step towards helping myself by seeking active participation in the Polish Students Association, PSA. Participating in PSA, being a different goal oriented group than VIRN, has helped me take the next step in not only encouraged me to become more active, but has also furthered the positive progression of my new lifestyle - to define who I am as an individual. From learning how to conquer certain challenges like grocery shopping and becoming more comfortable to navigate in larger crowds, in VIRN, to participating in forming and taking part of a social to strengthen and celebrate multiculturalism, in PSA. I can personally express that I have met many people by participating in VIRN and other groups that I wouldn't have met if I hadn't taken that first step in choosing to become active. Being active in the community is very important to me because I have learnt this is how a future is built upon, which gives me a sense of purpose, determination, motivation, and individuality that one needs to live a good life.