When Shawn Strunk first came to Dearborn in May, 1995, he was suffering from severe panic disorder, separation anxiety and depression. His father, a police officer, had been killed when he was two. He worried all the time that something terrible would happen to his mother.
In the sixth grade, “everything began to unravel,” Shawn says. “I just couldn’t handle it anymore.” An eighth grader beat him on the school bus, giving him a concussion. His mother was leaving the house to attend college, which gave him panic attacks. Just about every day at school he’d start hyperventilating and crying in the middle of class. A psychiatrist diagnosed him with depression, panic disorder and OCD. Eventually, he stopped attending public school and began with a home tutor, but this was only a short-term solution.
Shawn and his mother searched for an alternative school and finally settled on Dearborn. At Dearborn, Shawn met with his counselor for an hour each day. He slowly grew out of his panic attacks and separation anxiety. “I found a great support system at Dearborn,” he says. “The staff here were more than just teacher and administrators—they were your friends.”
Shawn’s fears steadily began to dissipate. He attended a Dearborn summer program and actually began to look forward to school. He enjoyed wood shop, the field trips, and the friendly, supportive atmosphere—for the first time, he called his teachers by their first names. He grew out of his bubble and became more social. By the end of seventh grade, Shawn was ready to give public school another chance.
Shawn attended and graduated from his public high school and went on to receive a BS in Elementary Education. Today Shawn works as a teacher in large part because of his experience at Dearborn. “The profound effect Dearborn had on me made me become a teacher,” he says. “Each and every day I find myself looking back and asking what my teachers would have done. I strive to make even the slightest impact on my students that Dearborn and its incredible staff had on me.”