Harper College

Isaac Jean-Paul


Isaac Jean-Paul photo

2022 Outstanding Recent Alumni Award Honoree
Isaac Jean-Paul

As head sprint coach for San Diego State University’s Adaptive Sports Program, Isaac Jean-Paul is bringing some impressive real-world athletic experience to his role. After all, he set a new world record in the high jump at the 2017 World Paralympic Championships.

He also won a bronze medal in the long jump at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games and is training for the 2024 Summer Olympics, which would make him among just a handful of athletes to ever compete in both the Olympics and Paralympics. Jean-Paul is also a published author and an accomplished motivational speaker.

The reason it’s been possible, the umbrella over his successes, he says, is Harper College.
Jean-Paul ran track in high school but struggled with grades. He looked to Harper as a place where he could compete while improving his GPA.

“It was amazing,” he says. “Words can’t even describe how impactful Harper was in my life.”

Jean-Paul holds a bachelor’s degree from Lewis University in Romeoville, where he was a national high jump champion in 2015. But first, he earned his associate degree from Harper. He was president of Harper’s Black Student Union and organized events such as a Kwanza celebration and a reunion for clubs of the former Multicultural Center. He also participated in a club that discussed Black issues in America.

Those experiences – and the mentorship he received from the club’s advisors, Dr. Travaris Harris and DuBoi McCarty – moved Jean-Paul to write a book about changing the narrative of social justice. “The Guardians of Orisha: The Hidden Stones” is the first in Jean-Paul’s fantasy series, which blends African ancestry and mythology with a superhero story.

Jean-Paul, who has a visual impairment called juvenile retinoschisis, also ran track at Harper, setting school records in the high jump and long jump. He worked with then-track coach Renee Zellner, who taught Jean-Paul how to compete with his disability. She helped him understand how he could jump, even though he couldn’t see where he was going. To no one’s surprise, Jean-Paul placed at the NJCAA National Championship.

He's quick to point out how Harper broadened his horizons.

“It brought me out of my shell to be a well-rounded person, not (only) an athlete,” he says. “I owe that to Harper.”

Last Updated: 12/14/23