Born and raised in Burundi, Isidore Niyongabo has been a champion for human rights and an advocate for access to education for Deaf children and hard of hearing children in developing countries. While growing up in a rural village tending sheep and goats when not in school, he became stricken with Spinal Meningitis at ten years old, and was brought home to die. However, he survived the disease beginning his courageous journey as a Deaf person. He was fortunate to have supportive parents who did what it took to ensure that deafness would not interfere with his education and success. His educational journey into deafhood started with a 13-hour ride on a bicycle with his father to the school for the Deaf that was far away from his hometown. After beginning his education at the school for the Deaf, his father’s life was tragically taken away a month later in the 1993 Burundi Genocide.
After the tragedy, Isidore started studying with other Deaf children. He persevered and attended mainstreamed high school without any interpreter or any form of accommodation. He eventually graduated with honors and moved to the U.S.A. to continue his education at Ohlone College where he earned his Associate degree in Social Sciences in 2008 before transferring to San Diego State University.
While at San Diego State University, Isidore founded the ASL Club after the University cut the once popular undergraduate track in ASL and Deaf Education. The goal was to ensure that ASL and Deaf culture continued to have a presence at the University. It was for this initiative that he became the first Deaf Homecoming King in the history of SDSU in 2010. Currently, Isidore holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from SDSU and a Master’s Degree Peace and Justice Studies from the University of San Diego with concentration in International Development and Human Rights Advocacy.
Isidore is a proud member of NBDA and former Peer Advisor of 2011 Youth Empowerment Summit (Y.E.S!). While balancing his full-time commitment in the Human Resources Department for Convo Communications, LLC, Isidore continues to pay it forward as the founding Executive Director of International Deaf Education, Advocacy, and Leadership (IDEAL), Inc., a San Diego based non-profit organization that empowers Deaf youth globally through provision of scholarships, leadership capacity building and human rights advocacy. In addition, he continues to inspire thousands of people through his extraordinary example of perseverance, self-reliance, enthusiastic effort, courage, and hope.
More information about IDEAL and the work we do can be found at www.realideal.org.