Honored Alumni Inspires and Empowers - Article, Office of College Advancement

Tuesday, May 24, 2016.

By Ohlone College.

Isidore Niyongabo signs in ASL while speaking at Ohlone's 2016 Graduation Ceremony, dressed in black regalia of the ceremony's platform party.Mr. Isidore Niyongabo graduated from Ohlone College in 2008 with a degree in Social Science. Isidore arrived at Ohlone in 2005 as an international student and immediately joined Ohlone’s campus activities.

Born and raised in a rural village in Burundi, he became deaf at age 10 due to a bout of spinal meningitis. In order to provide schooling for Isidore, his father took him to a school for the Deaf in another city far from their home, riding his bicycle for 13 hours each way. Just one month later, Isidore’s father was tragically killed in the Burundi Genocide in 1993.Of this life shattering experience Isidore wrote … “losing my hearing not only rescued me from the genocide, but also opened my eyes to better opportunities that I may have never reached if I did not become Deaf.”

After finding and exploring his Deaf identify and Deaf culture at Ohlone, Isidore became involved in student leadership. He was actively involved in ASOC, the student government organization at the college, and served as a student member on the College Council in 2007. He was one of two students appointed by ASOC to serve on the accreditation self-study committee from 2006-2007.

Isidore built upon his academic and leadership efforts after transferring to San Diego State University (SDSU) in 2008.While there he founded the American Sign Language (ASL) Club, believing that ASL and the Deaf culture should be visible on campus. His efforts were subsequently honored with his selection as the first Deaf Homecoming King at SDSU in 2010. He was also honored for organizing the first Deaf and Foster Youth Education and Leadership Initiative to bring local high school students to SDSU for empowerment and leadership workshops.

He graduated from San Diego State with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and went on to earn a Master of Arts degree in Peace and Justice Studies with a concentration in International Development and Human Rights Advocacy from the University of San Diego.

Thereafter, Isidore founded a non-profit organization called I.D.E.A.L.—International Deaf Education Advocacyand Leadership. This organization accomplishes its mission to empower and inspire increased access to education, leadership and employment opportunities for Deaf children and youth worldwide by providing scholarships and engaging in human rights advocacy. In February of this year, Isidore was recognized as a ‘Rising Star’ by the National Black Deaf Advocates (NBDA) as part of Black Deaf History month for his inspiring efforts toward helping young people achieve their goals. In addition, this spring he was appointed as the NBDA Director of Advocacy and Public Engagement.

Isidore Niyongabo currently works as a Human Resources Manager at Convo, a Deaf-owned video relay service provider, and he continues his humanitarian work as the Executive Director of I.D.E.A.L. He has inspired thousands of people, nationally and internationally, through his extraordinary example of courage, motivation, perseverance and hope.

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