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Rockford Teen Fundraising to Help Exchange Student Restore Hearing

ROCKFORD, Mich. (WOOD) — Students at Rockford High School are crowdfunding to help restore the hearing of their classmate, an exchange student who is also blind.

Shon, 19, is from Kyrgyzstan. He’s been in the United States for the last eight months as a participant in the Future Leaders Exchange Program.

He earned a honorary scholarship funded by the U.S. Congress, which allows him to live with a host family for an academic year and attend a high school.

“We have had several foreign exchange students but none with the setbacks that he has had to overcome,” Shon’s wrestling coach, Brian Richardson said. “He has done it with a smile on his face every single day.”

Shon was born blind and began to have severe hearing loss at 3 years old following an injury. He’s had three surgeries in Kyrgyzstan but none restored his hearing.

When Shon moved to Rockford eight months ago and began living with his host family, he didn’t mention that he had a hearing impairment.

It also wasn’t publicly known by his classmates. His friend, Isabelle Glover, explained she knew of Shon’s blindness and took him to a family friend’s eye clinic to see what could be done about his sight.

When she finally learned that he couldn’t hear very well, she tried to help him with that too. She started a fundraiser to raise money for Shon to have another surgery.

The goal is to raise $40,000, which will also help cover tuition for Shon’s first year of college, a program requirement to stay in the U.S.

He plans to attend Grand Rapids Community College and hopes to transfer to the Michigan State University and become part of the men’s wrestling team.

He’s a member of the team at his school and is a standout athlete. He has won many competitions and is one of the team leaders.

“I’m just very grateful I met Shon this year. By random chance we ended up sitting next to each other at the lunch table and here we are now,” Glover said.

Doctors say there’s a 99% success rate with the surgery, according to Shon’s host mom, Kim Thebo. His teacher’s say having the surgery will make a positive difference for him.

“Since Shon doesn’t have vision, his hearing is very important to him,” Paula Newman said. “Him being able to have his hearing restored is going to open up the world for him and just allow him to access so much more information in his environment.”

To donate, visit the GoFundMe page.

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