If you take a walk around Huntington University’s campus, you may run into a special someone, Noah Mondor. Despite his disability, he never fails to have a smile from ear to ear.
By Kortney Grimm, Contributor
“I can see a little light, but it doesn’t help much,” Noah Mondor says.
He can sense people who are near him, and he loves that.
Mondor is a visually impaired student here at Huntington University. Although he is just another freshman, he has a very different story of how he ended up here. Only 16% of all visually impaired people continue to recieve a bachelors degree, and Mondor is well on his way to that goal. Despite the odds, he is an independent student who can take care of himself.
Mondor was born in an orphanage in Manilla, Philippines, with a visual impairment. He was then adopted at four-and-a-half-years old to a family out of Auburn, Indiana, his new home. With not an easy start to life, he has been very resilient and is known around campus for his contagious smile.
Naturally, one would think students are attracted to Mondor just to help him, but this is not the case.
“Eh, sometimes. But actually I like to … I just really like the company, because I know how to mostly get around,” says Mondor.
He is very independent and can get around Huntington’s campus well by himself. Even in his freshman year, he has no roommate, and is living just fine on his own.
One would think having this major set back would cause a lot of problems in life, but not Mondor. He is very positive and is constantly trying to make people laugh.
“I always think if people wonder, ‘Oh he’s kinda cool, ya know?’” Mondor says in an interview.
He is always cracking jokes, and is very friendly to everyone he comes across. But how?
As seeing people often take much for granted, Mondor is very grateful for the life he has, even without sight.
“I just remember that I could be in a worse condition or state, so it could be something worse I could have on top of this,” Mondor says.
Having such a positive outlook on life given the circumstances has to be very hard to do, but Mondor makes it look easy.
Mondor is also an active member in the campus community. He is in the community band, plays the trumpet, interested in woodworking and a Kendrick Lamar enthusiast. He has touched many lives on this campus, including a junior here, Tessa Stutzman.
Stutzman first met Mondor at a bonfire with all of her friends. They shared many laughs and Mondor ended up going to church with them the next morning. He has gone with them ever since, and often shares meals with Stutzman, the relationship has grown ever since!
“I would say he’s funny, he also is generally pretty energetic, and he likes to get to know people,” Stutzman says.
She has gotten to know Mondor personally over this school year. She has been there for him daily, even if that is just as a friend.
Stutzman does have a deeper relationship with him, but she has also helped Mondor grow in his faith. They have a lot of conversations about the Christian faith, especially over dinner, where Stutzman spends most of her time with Mondor.
“I think one thing is just–sometimes I think he feels lonely,” says Stutzman. “Especially with getting around. He can get places, but it’s just nice to have somebody there.”
Although Mondor is very independent, and can do a lot of things that people don’t have to help him with, he just loves people! He is active around campus and is always getting to know someone new.
She has welcomed him with open arms and considers him no less of a friend than anyone else she has, “he’s a great guy, and a great friend,” says Stutzman.
Not only can Mondor get around by himself, but he is also very self-sufficient in the classroom.
“Noah has jumped right in, participated and done the work like any other student,” Professor Jay LeBlanc says while having Mondor in class for both Understanding the Christian Faith, and in Beginning Guitar.
He has never had a visually impaired student in class, but he does not see Noah as a struggle to teach in any way.
“My teaching style has not changed at all, and the students that serve him in the class do a wonderful job of making sure he has everything he needs,” he says.
Mondor has acted just like any other student would in the classroom, and his classmates seem to feel the same way.
“From my observation, Noah seems to interact very well with them,” LeBlanc says. “No one treats him any differently than they would anyone else.”
Other students are accepting towards Mondor. This is not always the case when it comes to students with a disability.
A study done by the National Federation of the Blind showed that, out of all of the people with a visual impairment, only 30 percent are able to even get some kind of college education, and even only 16 percent get a bachelors degree or higher.
Principal Michelle Wagner, and Alison Labarre, executive director statewide services and outreach OSSB and OSD at The Ohio State School for the Blind talk about teaching students that have visual impairments, things to be aware of in a classroom, and some common misconceptions.
“An additional area to consider when educating students who have a visual impairment, are blind or those who are deafblind. When thinking about instruction and curriculum, it is important to include direct instruction on areas like technology, making sure students can navigate using multiple forms of technology. For some students this will mean using a screen reader, for others using software to enlarge text, some will need refreshable braille displays, others may want technology to support orientation and mobility.”
Although there are components that are the same for all students, there are some additional methods educators can use to help with the learning experience for people with a visual impairment.
She also begins to explain how classrooms need to be considerate of access for these students, especially with other classmates.
“Working with other students to ensure they think about things like setting up conversation norms, considering things like saying their name before they speak, an example for working in a group, when someone is sharing, they would say “this is ‘*their name* speaking’, and then give their comments,” she says.
Not only is it important for these students to learn new things in school, but it is also important for them to learn adaptive living skills for living independently. This includes things from cooking, cleaning, problem solving, and building friendships. Because these students are trying to navigate their social lives as well as their education, a significant area schools need to focus on is inclusion.
“When students have access to inclusion, this is more than being in the same classroom with. This starts with group work, being connected with partners, and also expands to who students are able to sit with at lunch, what happens with friendships, social circles, being a part of a team, all of this needs to be considered when discussing inclusion,” she explains.
Because inclusion is such an influential concept with visually impaired kids, other students and people often have misconceptions about these kids.
“A common misconception about students with visual impairments is that they are different from other kids. Kids are kids, with needs around feeling accepted, wanting to belong, needing to feel confident, to like themselves, to challenge themselves.”
Even if someone is visually impaired or blind, that doesn’t make them any less than another person or student.
“I want to be my own type of person,” Mondor says with a smile.
He has embraced this and takes every day in stride.