“Tomorrow, I’m going to have lunch with someone,” self-professed “playboy” Ryan Tan boasted cheekily.

Like many boys his age, the 15-year-old loves dating, checking out sports cars, listening to music and pumping iron at the gym. However, where Ryan differs from most teenagers is the spirit he embodies and the difference he wants to make.

Every weekday morning, the Kent Ridge Secondary School student wakes up at 5:50am to get ready for school.

Ryan proudly sports a gleaming rectangle on his uniform: his student councillor badge. As a member of the council, his job includes planning events like teacher’s day, working late nights to send proposals and, most importantly, maintaining discipline. To Ryan, this is the most critical part of his role.

“I’m the quietest one in class,” he confessed. “I just long to study in peace.”

His desire to be left in a bubble of silence to concentrate on his work does not make him an outsider, however – Ryan is known to most students in school, and they say “hi” to him in the corridors. They also help to hold the lift door open and carry his belongings if he needs assistance.

Tan Jun Hong, 15, a friend of Ryan’s for 3 years, said: “He’s a very helpful guy. Also, a really funny dude…most of the time.”

To his teachers, Ryan is someone who is independent, resilient and persistent in whatever he does. Ms Lim Kaiwen, one of the student council teachers, praised his efforts to “bond the council”.

Once a week, Ryan looks forward to seeing Mr Mok Ismail, 53, who tutors him his beloved subject: English.

He likes English as it “opens up your mind and expands your imagination”. He also enjoys the lessons, which are full of “jokes, banter and nagging”.

Mr Ismail admires how his student doesn’t lose sight of his goals.

“Ryan has an amazing motivation to do well,” said Mr Ismail. “He sets himself very high targets and even when he doesn’t reach them, he’s undeterred.”

Beyond the classroom, Ryan savors the taste of the outdoors – a love that he demonstrated while at the school’s annual camp for secondary 3 students, Camp Endeavor. At the camp, Ryan encouraged his schoolmates to abseil.

“I was encouraging everybody to go, but also because I wanted it to be my turn so fast,” he laughed. “You get a different point of view when you’re up there. In my shoes you feel, ‘I made it’. I did what able-bodied people refused to do, even though it’s challenging for me.”

This was a reference to the condition Ryan has had since birth: cerebral palsy, also known as CP.

CP is a group of incurable and permanent movement disorders. Some 17 million people are living with CP worldwide, but in Singapore, the number is unclear as there is no official record.

Although CP has confined Ryan to a wheelchair, it has definitely not confined his aspirations. For his display of courage at Camp Endeavor, Ryan was given a special award in front of the whole school. Aside from abseiling and rock-climbing, he also loves swimming, and plans to compete in a local swimming competition held by the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore next year.

For the future, Ryan has bigger dreams. “I want to save lives. I want to get a doctor’s degree and become a medical surgeon, while doing motivational speaking part-time.”

Adding that he is trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), Ryan continued: “My aim is to say that anyone can save a life – whether you’re wheelchair-bound or you’re able.”

When asked if he had any other goals or plans in the years to come, Ryan said with a cheeky grin: “I want to be President so I can eradicate Social Studies from the curriculum.”