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Graduate will pursue neuropsychology
'to help people the way that I was helped'
May 6, 2015
Anna Sherman, 20, is fiercely protective of her perfect GPA – so much so that when a figure drawing class during the last semester of her CCRI experience threatened to mar a perfect record, she began to panic and thought about dropping the class, even though she loves art.
"But my mom said, 'This is something you want to do, something that brings you joy,'" remembered Sherman. "She didn't want me to drop this just because I was afraid of losing my 4.0. The real message was about not letting fear hold me back."
This is a lesson that Sherman, a General Studies major from Wakefield, has spent her life learning – and, like so many important lessons, relearning. Starting in middle school, her attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, known as ADHD, made it impossible to perform to her potential.
Her learning disability snowballed into self-doubt; afraid that her efforts would never be good enough, she simply stopped trying. But when something clicked in her senior year, and she felt inspired by the material, she realized that she had also surrendered the possibility of success.
"I realized I really liked school," she said. "And I decided that CCRI would be my second chance."
Sherman's first stop was the Disability Services for Students office, where she found a counselor to help her with time management. "I realized how I was spending my time compared to how I should have been spending it, and that was a big eye-opener. It was right at the beginning, so I was able to get started right away," she said.
Because Sherman tested well and learned how to manage her time, she had only one hurdle left to clear: her fear of failure. Slowly, with the help of supportive faculty and staff, Sherman said she was able to build up her confidence. Now, it's fair to say she's certainly on a roll.
"When I finished my first semester here, I had a 4.0, and that had never happened to me before. It was an incredible feeling: I felt good enough. I saw I was able to perform at that level, and that I was able to enjoy the experience that I was having while doing it," she recalled.
Throughout her experience, Sherman said she found professors who were more than accepting about the accommodations she required. But more than that, she said, their knowledge and their passion was a continued inspiration that changed how she felt about herself as a student, even challenging her notions about subjects that she had previously shied away from, such as her experience with Associate Professor Brendan Britton.
"His astronomy class completely changed every thought I'd ever had about science and how I performed in science," she said. "It was probably the most inspiring class I've ever taken."
In addition to her own studies, Sherman has taken on a part-time job with the Student Success Center, tutoring her classmates in statistics and Italian. She said she enjoys the feeling of giving back, helping other students understand not only the material, but the idea that there are different styles and approaches to learning – and that's perfectly fine.
"It's the best job I've ever had," she said, adding that she's also balanced working for Kenyon Sportswear, her family's company, first in its retail location and then in the factory. "I get paid to help people, which is what I want to do with my life."
When Sherman graduates this month, she will transfer to the University of Rhode Island through the Joint Admissions Agreement program, where she will major in psychology. Her interest in the field has long been percolating; when she was 14, she told her grandparents that her dream job was to be an art therapist, owing to her twin passions: art and helping people.
"I did some research and realized that you can't really get a job around here in art therapy," she said. "But at the same time, I was taking my first general psychology course at CCRI, and I fell absolutely, deeply in love with the brain and how the brain works."
Sherman said she hopes to move on to pursue a doctorate in clinical psychology with a focus on neuropsychology – the same degree held by the professional who finally diagnosed her ADHD and helped engineer her individualized education plan. In addition to what she calls a fascinating subject in its own right, the fact that much of neuropsychology hits so close to home is not lost on Sherman.
"I want to help people the way that I was helped," she said. "To teach them exactly what is going on and that it's not some personal trait, it's not that they're not good enough, it's actually something happening in their brain."
There's no question that she's made good on what she calls her "second chance" – securing a brighter future not only for herself, but also for the untold numbers of students she may help along the way. She said she plans to carry that message with her just as proudly as she'll carry that first degree.
"Never be afraid to ask for help," she said, "Don't be afraid to take that extra minute to talk to your professors. If you're about to start CCRI or thinking about coming here ... it's an incredible school. It gave me so many friendships, it gave me the support I needed, and opportunities to work and prosper and realize my potential."
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