Eleven years ago, life took a turn for 29-year-old Vylssess Edwards after an accident left him confined to a wheelchair.
And while the chances of him regaining his mobility is 50/50, the La Jealousie, West Coast Demerara (WCD) is determined to pursue his dreams.
In an interview with the News Room, Edwards recalled the dreadful morning in April 2012 when he was struck down by an alleged drunk driver, leaving him with injuries to his spinal cord.
“…That year I was pursuing Geology….I was looking to migrate to Australia…and that said year also I was learning to become a football referee for the GFF (Guyana Football Federation).
“And being a football referee, you needed to be fit. So this particular morning I went to ride from where I live to the Harbour Bridge and back. It was right in Crane, a drunk driver collided into me,” Edwards explained.
Although the accident has forced the second year medical student to shift his goals, he said he is now finding a balance by being actively involved in sports and his academics.
“…I was able to successfully have my first wheelchair race victory – that was in 2015. I pursued a line of me participating in sports…until I was able to see myself in a more academic way,” Edwards told the News Room.
“It’s all about the mentality because once you are able to oversee the bare picture, you would most likely be able to live as it is. That’s how I live knowing that I am alive and well. It’s just the challenges of getting up in the morning and getting back to bed and being able to meet this level of motivation that I am seeing for myself, it gives give privilege to see I can be a motivation to others,” he said.
On a daily basis, Edwards said he manages to take care of himself and needs little to no help to move around.
“In terms of mobility wise, I need help yes but there are times where I don’t need the effort of persons pushing me or taking me out or so forth. I can just do it by myself,” he said.
Hope was renewed for Edwards after he was selected as a recipient for the Government’s Guyana Online Academy of Learning (GOAL) scholarship programme.
And he is now pursuing a Degree in Artificial Intelligence having recently graduated with a Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) Level 6 diploma which is offered under the Get Ready for Opportunities to Work (GROW) scholarship programme.
“I saw it on social media. It was on Facebook and I was able to apply and I wasn’t too sure that I would be successful. But eventually I got the email stating that I was, which something I never expected was
“…I had grades but I wasn’t too certain the criteria of being eligible to be in University which was outside of Guyana or in the Caribbean,” Edwards told the News Room in a recent interview.
The SCQF diploma is a comprehensive preparatory programme targeting applicants who have at least completed Grade nine of their secondary education or sat the CSEC examination but did not obtain pass in four subjects. Upon completing the programme, students becomes eligible to enroll in Bachelor’s Degree programmes offered by Jain University.
According to Edwards, being able to successfully graduate is a milestone for him.
“When I heard my name being called, I was like ‘wow’. I reach to this level of academic and the journey was very much a worthwhile one,” he said.
According to Edwards, his passion for cybernetics has lead him to the field of Artificial Intelligence.
“The passion for cybernetic world. I was very passionate about it before and now I am able to go in depth, which is very challenging I must say….From here it’s just leanring to be a more inclusive person in the technological aspect,” he told the News Room.
For Edwards, adapting to the different time zones to keep up with studies is not something which happened over night. Instead, he said it lead to many health challenges.
“During that six months it was very challenging….The University (Jain), that we were in, had a difference in the time zone.
“I was trying to cope with the level of teaching that they were doing – and being a different culture, it was challenging…understanding what the lectures were saying,” Edwards said.
Edwards is also a second year medical student at the University of Barcelona. He will be departing the country in September for his final year. Apart from football, Edwards is also actively involved in archery and is the leader of the West Side Disability Association.
He is encouraging other persons with disability to be consistent and proactive in their dreams.
“Persons with disablities, I encourage you to take up a challenge in academics and be more proactive in being a advocate for persons with disabilities like myself…Once your mentality is being at a consisent level of self development you can overcome,” Edwards said.