The American Institute of CPAs awarded Paul Wright, a student at Western Washington University, with the Beta Alpha Psi’s Medal of Inspiration Award Aug. 3 at the honorary organization’s annual meeting in Baltimore, Md.

The AICPA-sponsored award, which includes a $5,000 cash stipend, honors a student who has experienced extreme hardships in his or her life and demonstrated an unusually high level of success in face of that adversity.

Wright was born with arthrogryposis, a non-genetic, non-progressive disability that includes stiff joints and missing muscle that required multiple surgeries before he turned 16.

Wright graduated high school while participating in the Running Start Program, which facilitated classes at a community college. He also mastered tasks like carrying books and opening a door at the same time, and on Sept. 19, 2010, he began attending college while living on his own.

“A key lesson I learned while growing up is that true strength comes from the heart,” Wright said in a statement. “It comes from persevering through pain and adversity. Many view disabled people with a feeling of sorrow and pity. As I see it, my accomplishments mean much more to me. I know that I work harder for everything and that makes me feel even prouder of my accomplishments. Through these challenges, I have learned courage, perseverance, and how to live a life that is inspiring to others.”

Once enrolled, Wright declared an accounting major and last April joined Beta Alpha Psi, an honorary organization for financial information students and professionals. He also worked with the university’s disability resource center and local BAP chapter to stream meetings to students who couldn’t attend.

“Paul Wright has had to work extremely hard his entire life to overcome the challenges caused by his disability,” stated Jeannie Patton, AICPA’s vice president of academic and career awareness. “His achievements are both a testament to his strength and an inspiration to anyone who hears his story. I cannot think of a more fitting recipient for this year’s Beta Alpha Psi Medal of Inspiration award.”

With a current GPA of 3.2 and active roles in the Accounting Society and Western Washington University’s Residence Life in addition to BAP, Wright will graduate in the spring of 2014.