Contact: Western Washington University Accounting student Paul Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BELLINGHAM – Western Washington University senior Paul Wright (Olympia, Accounting) is the 2012 recipient of the American Institute of CPAs Beta Alpha Psi Medal of Inspiration Award, given annually to a student who has experienced extreme hardships in his or her life and who has demonstrated an unusually high level of success despite that adversity.
|Western Washingotn University student Paul Wright of Olympia is the recipient of the American Institute of CPAs Beta Alpha Psi Medal of Inspiration Award, given annually to a student who has experienced extreme hardships in his or her life and who has demonstrated an unusually high level of success despite that adversity.|
Wright was born with arthrogryposis, a non-genetic, non-progressive disability that includes stiff joints and missing muscle. Wright faced an uphill battle from a young age and endured 10 surgeries – his first when he was just two days old – at Seattle’s Children’s Hospital before he turned 16.
“To look back on my childhood is a pretty daunting task,” Wright said. “I don’t have many memories of doing the ‘normal’ kid things.”
Nevertheless, Wright pushed forward, always with a goal of self-sufficiency and full independence, and a determination to find the joys in life that other youth experience – and after performing in his first production at the age of 10, music and theater became a passion.
“Each summer I got a chance to participate in different musical theater shows. I did not realize at the same time how many life skills I was learning while doing this,” he said. “Every performance built my confidence, and my ability to talk in front of large crowds. I learned how to work in teams, how to work with others, and how to show respect to the people around me.”
Wright said the biggest challenge he has faced in his life has been the transition away from home and the support of his parents to college and life on his own.
“For some, going to college is just the next step in life. But for me, it was a goal I had worked my entire life to achieve,” he said. “The day I moved into my residence hall at Western, I dropped my parents off at the hotel so they could catch the train home. I knew at that moment I had reached my goal. I fought and pushed through 10 surgeries, countless hours of physical and occupational therapy, endless hardships, pain and tears. I had made it. I was living on my own, going to college, and doing what few thought I would do when I was born.”
“I remember looking at my mom, both of us with tears in our eyes, and her saying ‘You have worked really hard for this, and here you are.’ As I drove away I felt such a sense of accomplishment and pride. I was beating the odds, I was overcoming the impossible, and I was achieving my dream.”
Wright has since served as a residence hall advisor at Western, appeared in the University’s production of “The Pirates of Penzance” last year, become a member of Beta Alpha Psi, the Accounting Honor Society, and is now serving an internship with the Washington State Auditor’s Office.
Western Washington University Professor of Accounting Zite Hutton said Wright was the kind of student who makes all those around him feel like they can accomplish their goals.
“Paul is an inspiration to all of us,” she said.
Wright said he feels that the things he has been able to achieve might mean more to him than they would to someone without a disability.
“I know that I work harder for everything I have to do and that in return makes me feel even prouder of those accomplishments I have achieved,” he said.
Wright is on schedule to graduate in 2014 and plans a career in public accounting. For more information on Wright’s Beta Alpha Psi Medal of Inspiration Award, contact Wright at email@example.com.