This 18-year-old computer whiz speeds through life with an impressive resume and encouraging parents.
Nature may have withheld one of his senses, but it also endowed Suleyman Gokyigit with a mind that can take snapshots of places, objects and concepts that sighted people may not even recall noticing. It also gave him parents with a gift for polishing their son's natural talent like a precious gem.
When Suleyman was two years old and visiting the Mayo Clinic for the first time, he was already completely blind from retinitis pigmentosa. Yet his father, Hasan, remembers that the child managed to find, all by himself, some toys to play with in a corner of the doctor's office. As Suleyman quietly amused himself with his discoveries, the pediatrician looked at the father and reassuringly smiled: "He will be a happy boy."
His mother Acun's wish was that he be exactly that. She says, "Everything else is a bonus."
The happy young child would turn out to have a prodigious memory and a knack for turning computer systems inside out and making them work. His employer marvels at how Suleyman can "see" into the heart of a computer. At 18, he is a junior at the University of Toledo, where he carries a 4.0 grade point average in his major, electrical engineering and computer science. Suleyman was profiled in The Wall Street Journal, earlier this year as one of the top computer technicians at the Toledo, Ohio office of InteliData Technologies, Corp., a $70-million software company selling home-banking software to financial institutions. He works part-time to accommodate his class schedule.
Last September, through a proclamation from the Office of the Mayor of Toledo, the teen was named Citizen of the Month as a notable employee due to his considerable computer programming skills "which he has acquired on his own and with very little training." Within the next year, the young man hopes to satisfy his thirst for learning even more by entering a combined masters and doctorate degree at either the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) or the California Institute of Technology.
Power of visualizing
When Suleyman lost his eyesight as a baby over a period of five days, he was initially so frightened of noises that he clung close to his mother. Back then, his father's greatest wish was to see his son run and play again. This eventually became a reality, due to the boy's power of visualizing various environments--element by element--in his head and mapping them indelibly there.
"I saw him enjoy the playground as a child and ride a two-wheel bike without hitting a tree," says his father. It was also Hasan's wish that this son would be self-sufficient, which has also happened. "What he does after that just adds to the pride I already feel for him."
One of Suleyman's very own role models is Microsoft's phenomenal founder, Bill Gates, "for all that he has achieved." More important role models are his parents, for helping him to achieve all he has, so far. His mother was his advocate from the very start while his dad helped steer him away from self-pity. They showered him with "regular" toys such as plastic alphabet letters and a two-wheel bike. They encouraged--not pushed--the boy to stretch his limits.
Legendary troubleshooter and "Trekkie"
Now a young man with a strong foundation for a bright career in technology, Suleyman speaks with a self-confidence that is not cocky. When he expresses disappointment over his observation that the educational system tends to hold back those who wish to learn at their own speed, he assumes a wishful, rather than a bragging tone. …