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Letting nothing stand in her way

Leeds’ graduate Morgan Leapaldt won’t let a hearing loss stop her from succeeding

May 28, 2010
Sonia Mullally

Morgan Leapaldt walked across the stage at Leeds High School recently and a familiar face handed her a diploma.

Gay Leapaldt, Morgan's mom and Leeds school board member, was also there to give a big hug.

"We are very close," Morgan said.

It's no wonder mom and daughter are so close. They've been through a lot together. In fact, Morgan says she has a very tight-knit family, along with her dad, Bryan, and older brother, Derrek.

When Morgan was just seven months old she was hospitalized after contracting salmonella poisoning from her brother's pet turtle. The high fever and other complications associated with the illness caused Morgan to go completely deaf.

At the age of three, she began attending the North Dakota School for the Deaf in Devils Lake and continued there through eighth grade.

In 2004, she underwent a cochlear implant on the left side and, in 2006, the right. The cochlear implant is a surgically implanted electronic device that provides a sense of sound through electrical stimulation in the auditory system.

"The implants made a huge improvement," Morgan explained. "I can hear almost everything and I can also hear myself talk which made a big difference."

She enrolled in Leeds High School as a freshman. At the school for the deaf, Morgan was the only student in her class. She wanted more opportunity to be challenged academically and to be able to socialize with kids her own age.

Morgan has had the assistance of her sign language interpreter, Cindy Mead of Devils Lake, throughout her high school years. Mead spent pretty much every day with Morgan, helping primarily with math, English and science classes. Otherwise, Morgan is able to listen to her teachers and read lips during many of her other classes.

She will certainly miss seeing Cindy every day.

"She's part of my life," Morgan said. "I'm really grateful for her. She's helped me be successful. She's like my second mom."

Looking at Morgan's list of activities and accomplishments throughout her time at Leeds High School, one would never even suspect she had any trouble overcoming her disability.

During her high school years, she's been involved in FCCLA, FFA, National Honor Society, annual staff, math club and science club.

She credits her family, the kind people in the community, her classmates, and, of course, her daily companion, Cindy, for helping her to achieve.

She, along with her eight classmates, will graduate this Sunday, May 23. Morgan is co-valedictorian and one of the featured speakers during the ceremony.

Morgan's commencement speech will focus on the many places she and her classmates will go and the different paths they can take. Certainly, Morgan will speak from experience in overcoming her own challenging path to success.

After a mother-daughter trip to New York this summer, Morgan gets set to head off to Minnesota State University-Moorhead in the fall. Morgan, the youngest in her family, is both excited and sad when she thinks about leaving home.

She'll miss socializing with her friends and working at her job at Chad's Amoco station, where she's been for about three years.

Morgan will be majoring in fine arts with an emphasis on graphic design and a minor in business.

She enjoys art and has always been good at drawing and working on designs on her computer, so graphic design was a good fit for her.

After college, she plans to stay in North Dakota to remain close to her family. She hopes to one day live in a larger city in the state and maybe even start her own business.



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