Space awaits blind boy

South Waikato News - - FRONT PAGE - By CAITLIN WAL­LACE

Blind Pu­taruru stu­dent Jayke Hopa is only weeks away from launch­ing off on a schol­ar­ship to the United States Space Camp for the vis­ually im­paired.

Jayke, 13, was one of only two New Zealan­ders to re­cieve the fully-paid for schol­ar­ship.

Born with two con­di­tions, sep­toop­tic dys­pla­sia and op­tic nerve hy­popla­sia meant his op­tic nerves never fully de­vel­oped, leav­ing him com­pletely blind.

Any­thing as sim­ple as do­ing up but­tons or brush­ing his teeth has been a strug­gle.

But prac­tice makes per­fect, he said.

Late next month, he will spend a week at the US Rocket and Space Cen­ter do­ing aero­nau­tics, lead­er­ship and team­work ac­tiv­i­ties in­clud­ing work­ing to build a rocket with 200 other vis­ually im­paired peo­ple from around the world.

Sci­ence has never been his favourite sub­ject but he was not se­lected for his abil­ity with a bun­sen burner.

The talented self- taught mu­si­cian had to sub­mit two es­says; one about his eye con­di­tion and the other about his her­itage.

The Amer­i­can-based trust that pro­cessed his ap­pli­ca­tion, Light House, was ob­vi­ously im­pressed by the cre­ative char­ac­ter.

Jayke, who spends hours strum­ming away, cre­at­ing orig­i­nal mu­sic, said he is hop­ing the camp will help him reach his own dream ca­reer.

He first picked up the gui­tar at 5 years old and said the urge to make mu­sic came nat­u­rally.

‘‘I want to be­come a fa­mous mu­si­cian; I’ll write more mu­sic and en­ter more com­pe­ti­tions,’’ he said.

The ACDC and Michael Jack- son fan has im­pressed au­di­ences with his tal­ent.

Re­source teacher Nic Hol­loway put the young Ngati Wairere and Ma­niapoto de­scen­dent’s ap­pli­ca­tion to­gether.

Hol­loway said de­spite its ti­tle, the pro­gramme was never all about sci­ence.

‘‘It’s about gain­ing con­fi­dence and skills,’’ she said.

For the small town boy who has never left New Zealand, Hol­loway said it will be an ex­pe­ri­ence to re­mem­ber.

‘‘I’m so proud of him, it must be fairly daunt­ing go­ing on a long flight and a big Amer­i­can air­port; his life has just been liv­ing in Pu­taruru and Waihi,’’ she said.

His go-get­ter na­ture will serve him well on the camp, she said.

‘‘One time we set up a row­ing ma­chine and he had never been on one. He felt it and he wasn’t sure what would hap­pen when he got on but he did it any­way.’’

Ac­com­pa­ny­ing Jayke on this wild ride will be life skills spe­cial­ist Paulette Ad­sett.

Though they both have no idea what is in store, Ad­sett pre­dicts he will hap­pily take ev­ery­thing in his stride.

‘‘It was just so ex­cit­ing, he’s just such a won­der­ful boy,’’ she said.

USA bound: Blind Pu­taruru school­boy Jayke Hopa,13, is pre­par­ing for take­off af­ter win­ning a schol­ar­ship to the United States Space Camp.

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