By Jayden Gregory, staff writer
When students arrive at Newman University, they are greeted by their friends, attend classes, socialize at the café and Scooter’s, complain about the boy who doesn’t notice them, run off to practice and bury themselves in the library with countless hours of work to do. This is an example of a typical day on campus for nearly every student.
For Jared Ojile, a freshman studying biochemistry, his day is similar except for the constant stares, whispers and being mistaken for a kid genius. He’s a typical 19-year-old who just happens to be 4’8.
Growing up, Ojile wasn’t always seen as the short kid. He grew up normally and never showed any signs of a disorder. Signs that he was different didn’t appear until he was in the sixth grade.
“When I was in second grade, I was one of the tallest in my class and it started dropping off from there,” Ojile said. “We didn’t think about it that much because, you know, some kids grow earlier, some grow late.”
“It wasn’t until about sixth or seventh grade that we noticed I was really behind everyone else in my class,” Ojile said. “We went to my doctor for several years for blood sugar problems. He’s an endocrinologist, and he started noticing that my height was dropping off dramatically, so he started investigating that along with my blood sugar issues.”
After many tests, Ojile still did not know the cause of his growth deficiency.
“I have a really good doctor and he’s had me do tons of different tests, blood work,” Ojile said. “I had an MRI and so far everything has come out normal. The most significant test we’ve had run is one that showed I had a partial growth hormone deficiency, but everything else checks out fine.”
He said the doctor’s latest theory is that his liver and growth plate suffer a disconnect.
“There is a brain-to-liver signal and there is a liver-to-growth-plate signal,” Ojile said. “As of a few years ago, my brain-to-liver signal was doing just fine but we’re not sure if the liver was actually receiving it properly.”
Ojile is considered a statistical anomaly because of the uncertainty behind his condition. Being a statistical anomaly doesn’t bother Ojile, but to people who don’t know him, it is.
“One summer I started counting how many times someone would ask me, say like a friendly joke or something similar to that and within one year it reached past 100,” Ojile said. “So I stopped after about 110. That’s when I had really started noticing the looks, but you get used to it. I mean it’s just something that happens. It’s there. What’s worse is when people treat you like you’re little, but if people understand the situation they actually treat me like I’m 19, but if they don’t ask then they just treat me as if I were 13.”
Ojile said he is happy about the acceptance he has received from the Newman community.
“I do get a fair amount of stares, but it’s more curious rather than thinking I’m odd,” Ojile said. “It’s a good thing. People are interested in it, which is a good icebreaker. It’s a conversation topic.”
For Ojile the stares and whispers can be hard at times, but he has learned to adjust. He has always found a way to adapt to most of his situations, he said.
“When I was in grade school, I played basketball and I was the guard,” Ojile said. “I never went for the layup because all someone had to do was stretch out their arm and block me. So what I did was learn how to shoot 3-pointers, because no one expects you to come out shooting threes, especially someone like me. There was one game where I scored nine of our 36 points that way. That was pretty cool.”
When asked if he would consider having a 3-point contest against one of the basketball players he laughed and replied by saying, “I’d have to practice first.”
Learning to adjust is just one of the many traits he possesses. Ojile said he considers himself a goal-setter, persistent, wanting to make sure everyone knows that he or she is important.
“They truly are human and they deserve to be treated as such,” Ojile said. “My parents raised me that way. Judge people on their character, not on what they look like or what you think, but what their choices are.”
Ojile plans on completing his studies at Newman and is considering a career in the medical field.
“I might be travel-size, but I have the same goals, ambitions and ideas everyone else has,” Ojile said.