Harper College

Ten Questions with Isaac Jean-Paul

Isaac Jean-Paul

Isaac Jean-Paul counts many accomplishments to his name. He was a student leader at Harper College, an All-American collegiate athletic champion for track and field, a U.S. Olympic Team trial qualifier and a decorated U.S. Paralympic athlete. He is now a coach for athletes with disabilities and a motivational speaker, in addition to being the 2024 Harper Commencement speaker. Isaac has accomplished all of this while battling Juvenile Retinoschisis, an eye condition that impairs his vision, which he was diagnosed with at age 2.

But when the Harper alumnus is not out changing the world, you can find him spending time with his family and rocking out to Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten.” Here are ten questions with Isaac Jean-Paul.

1. What is the Isaac Jean-Paul origin story?

Isaac Jean-Paul’s origin story starts as a kid with big dreams and even bigger determination. He imagined himself as a real-life superhero, believing he could overcome any obstacle. Isaac was not only imaginative but also loved music and television, dreaming of NBA stardom, hitting game-winning shots and idolizing his childhood heroes. His story is a continuous journey, living many lives within one lifetime, always beginning a new chapter as soon as the last one ends. 

2. Describe your perfect day.

My perfect day begins when my 2-year-old daughter wakes me up with her morning breath, tugging at me to get up because it's time to start the day. That moment, as simple as it seems, is what I cherish the most – it gives me a reason to wake up every morning. 

3. You could be best friends with one fictional character; who do you choose and why?

I would choose Dwayne Wayne from A Different World. Growing up, this show was a staple for me because its characters were genuine and relatable as they navigated life at a HBCU. Dwayne was cool yet nerdy, deeply committed to his community and uplifting others. I’ve learned many life lessons from the show and Dwayne’s transformation from a boy to a confident man. 

4. Who was your role model growing up?

Growing up, my role model was my mother, especially seeing her play basketball. I aspired to emulate her both on and off the court. Beyond sports, she’s an incredible individual who faces life’s challenges head-on without making excuses, a trait that I strive to uphold in my own life. 

5. What current fact about your life would most impress your 5-year-old self?

The fact that I am delivering a college commencement speech would utterly amaze my 5-year-old self. If you had told me at 18 that I’d be speaking at such an event, I wouldn’t have believed it. It’s a testament to the unpredictable yet inspiring nature of human transformation. 

6. It’s your turn to sing karaoke; what song do you pick and why?

I’d choose “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield. It’s a beautiful ballad with an upbeat tempo, and the lyrics resonate deeply with me. Every time I hear it, I can't help but sing along – it always brings a smile to my face. 

7. If you could make a documentary on any topic, what would it be?

I would make a documentary about adaptive sports, showcasing how sports foster community, belonging and recognition of abilities beyond physical appearances. Growing up as an athlete, I was unaware of adaptive sports. Having since discovered this incredible world, I would want to highlight these inspiring athletes who defy expectations. 

8. What is something you are deeply grateful for right now?

Right now, I’m profoundly grateful for being a father. There’s no greater feeling than seeing the genuine, joyful smile of your child when you walk into a room. Being a father is an immense honor and brings unparalleled happiness to my life. 

9. What are you hopeful for?

I’m hopeful for another day. Another day to live, laugh and love with those who mean the most to me. I’ve never wanted much – just to provide for my family and see my loved ones happy. Regardless of the current circumstances, I remain hopeful for more moments of joy and connection. 

10. What did you love most about your time at Harper College?

The most memorable part of my time at Harper College was the people I met, many of whom I remain close to today. Before Harper, my life was all about sports. Attending Harper opened my eyes to new possibilities, showing me that there’s much more to life. This enlightenment has been crucial, and I’m grateful that it happened during my time at Harper. 

Last Updated: 7/1/24