NEWARK — Like many kids, Noah Dagois told his mom early on that he wanted to change the world.
Unlike many, however, Dagois has actually followed through and done just that.
“To change the world, I decided that I had to change my world first,” said the graduating Newark senior, who will attend Concord, W.Va. University and continue his academic and soccer careers. “In seventh grade at Wilson (Middle School), I met Leland Mummey, who has Down Syndrome. We kind of started hanging out and throwing the ball together. Now, he’s like a little brother to me. It changed my life.”
On a recent school day, Dagois and fellow seniors Aamyah Bonner and Nina Smith could be found in the Daily Life Skills class of culinary arts teacher Leona Vrbanac, mentoring students with significant special needs. They were helping them make waffles. It’s a part of his day Dagois looks forward to tremendously. And it shows.
“I am going to major in Special Education,” he said. “I want to start out as a teacher, then create my own organization, to help thousands of kids. It’s all about finding something you love, and I really love this. I want people to treat them as no different than any other human beings, see them as the same as us.”
“Noah is the best,” Vrbanac said. “He’s fun and engaging and popular. He will take the time to really look at a student, if he sees there is a communication barrier. He finds ways to help students become more connected, and explores ways to make solutions work. He spends the time, and he’s very focused. Noah has been a trusted friend to them for many years, and they look up to him. He focuses on their strengths, but is also perceptive of limitations and puts thought into helping bridge gaps.”
Vrbanac said Dagois advocated for a student who is non-verbal to learn and use sign language, and has helped students learn to count money so they can be more independent.
Newark High School assistant principal Jessica Corum said Dagois has participated in Unified elective classes every year, helping students build friendships and social skills while learning the content. He is also a mentor for the school’s Sources of Strength, a suicide prevention program that discourages bullying.
“One time on a busy morning, a parent dropped off a student who cannot independently navigate the building,” Corum recalled. “I had the student with me and was trying to call for another staff member to escort him to class. Noah approached me and very politely said, ‘Mrs. Corum, [name] is my friend and we have first period together. Can I walk him to class for you?’ The student was so excited to have a friend to walk with.”
Every day at lunch, Dagois passes through the lunchroom and greets his friends from Unified PE. He greets each kid by name and is never short with hugs, high fives, or a quick chat about their day. “The kids light up when they see Noah coming,” Corum said. “Several of them attended his college signing day, and Noah included them right along with all his teammates and other friends. Noah is quite simply the kindest student I’ve ever met.”
Dagois parlays his passion for life onto the soccer pitch, where he was a three-time All-Ohio Capital Conference performer for the Wildcats while making all-district. One of three captains, he scored 15 goals and had 17 assists, despite playing with a torn patella in his knee, and helped Newark to its first winning record since 2015. He played basketball as a freshman and sophomore before breaking his collarbone, and gave football kicker a try before the knee injury. He was only able to play five soccer games his junior season.
“I had surgery on the knee in December,” Dagois said. “I played hurt, wore a brace, took Aleve and prayed. But there was not a chance I was not going to play. I’ve played since I was 4.”
“The word is perseverance,” said Newark soccer coach Geoff Smith. “He’s dealt with injuries throughout his career. If healthy, he would have been on a lot of college teams’ radars. He has athleticism, skill and a very high soccer IQ. He’s a special breed. He gets people to work, with his patience and passion. One Friday night, it was like 8 or 9 o’clock. I was getting stuff out of my office at Evans, and here he is, no one else around, out on the field, working on his craft.”
Smith said Dagois truly cares for other kids. “With his personality, he sees everyone in the same light. He and Ty Pangborn had like 50-75 at their college signing day. That many took the time to come see it.”
Concord is an NCAA Division II program, where the girls coach won three conference titles and is now taking over the boys program. It’s a strong league, with Charleston winning a national championship.
Noah has an interesting family background. His dad is from Germany and his grandfather from France, and he has visited Europe several times. He has two older sisters, Maddy and Katie.
“They’re my role models. They push me to my limits,” he said. “They’ve always worked really hard.”
Dagois has also volunteered for the Special Olympics, and works as a soccer referee.
“No matter what I do, it’s 100 percent,” he said. “It’s all about the mental state of everything. I’m training for life.”
This article originally appeared on Newark Advocate: Newark’s Noah Dagois plans to change the world through kindness