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March 18, 2003

Children's crusader

From: Port Huron Times Herald, MI - 18 Mar 2003

Karen Massaro-Mundt has moved beyond her own disabilities to help kids with special needs

Times Herald

Karen Massaro-Mundt's thick glasses don't quite hide the fact she is legally blind. Her hair does a better job of hiding her hearing aid.

What she does for St. Clair County parents whose children are in special-education classes isn't hidden at all.

Mundt is an advocate for people with special needs, a free service provided through The Arc of St. Clair County. She spends most of her time with parents as they struggle to get their children the best education possible.

She was the first person hired to the position by The Arc's Executive Director Jim Fortushniak when it was created about 21/2 years ago.

"She's empathetic," Fortushniak said. "She understands the frustration people with accommodations have to deal with."

In January, she spoke to the Port Huron school board on behalf of deaf students to allow sign-language classes to continue at Port Huron Northern High School. She also is working with parents at East China schools to keep a special-education program from moving from one school to another.

Besides growing up with disabilities, Mundt has something else in common with the parents she with whom she works. Her son, Joseph, 15, has disabilities after being hit by a pickup truck eight years ago.

Mundt said parents appreciate knowing they aren't alone in their struggle.

"Every system is tough to deal with," she said. "You feel like you

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