When is the last time someone said you should quit? When was the last time you did what seemed to be impossible?
Whether it was yesterday or decades ago, whether it was a one-hitter-quitter or a recurring feat, you know firsthand just how true this quote by Henry Ford from over 100 years ago is: Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.
And like Shane, no matter how hard it was and has been, you know the last thing you can ever do is stop, once you’ve redefined what is and isn’t possible on your own terms.
(Shane) I struggled in grade school. I didn’t find out the reason until I was 20 years old; I’d actually suffered a stroke while in the womb, which led to having a learning disability. I was homeschooled for Kindergarten and Pre-K. In first grade, I went to a public school, but hated it. I made up every excuse not to go back. Eventually, my mom allowed me to be homeschooled first through fourth grade.
(Mother) We didn’t know Shane was an in utero stroke survivor before he was born, which was from an unknown genetic disorder. We noticed at two years old he had a hard time making blend sounds like “sh.” So, we took him to be tested by a speech pathologist, and he had speech language therapy until he graduated high school. He was homeschooled for three years while I fought the school system to get him placed in the right school. He often had to go through a lot of psychological evaluations and cognitive assessments. The doctors said he would always function several years behind his peers because of his disability.
(Shane) When I went back to public school in fifth grade, I was placed in special ed. But they didn’t teach me anything, they just pushed me through. When I was 15, I was moved to another school where I was forced to be in a normal classroom, which made me feel stupid. Even though I was used to being in special ed, and there were other kids with more extreme learning disabilities, I was at least able to keep up. But being suddenly in a class where it felt like everyone was smarter was really hard on me.
When I arrived, I was in 8th grade, reading on a 5th grade level. By 12th grade, I had grown quite a bit, but the school board wanted to give me a graduate certificate instead of a high school diploma, which was their way of saying I tried but couldn’t perform well enough.
No matter what I tried, I was never able to learn at the same speed of everyone else, which was frustrating. They had outside people to give me learning support, but they had to always pull me out of the classroom to work with me one on one. So, that placed even more attention on me, making people think something was wrong with me. Eventually, I was enrolled in the Baltimore Lab Schoolduring the last semester of my eighth grade, and that’s when things began to change.
To me, the Lab School was a place for kids who learned differently. It wasn’t like special ed where all of the kids had learning disorders, it was simply a group of kids who needed more one-on-one guidance, instead of a traditional classroom with one teacher for over 30 kids. The maximum number of kids in any classroom was 10, which allowed the teachers to slow down and make sure you really understood everything they were teaching. That’s what I liked about it. There, I didn’t feel stupid; I realized that I learned differently, just like everyone else.
When I arrived, I was in 8th grade, reading on a 5th grade level. By 12th grade, I had grown quite a bit, but the school board wanted to give me a graduate certificate instead of a high school diploma, which was their way of saying I tried but couldn’t perform well enough. It was more like a pat on the back for a job well done. But I wanted to do whatever I had to do to get a high school diploma. Everyone around me, with the exception of my mom, said I was only good enough to get a graduate certificate. They told us to just take the graduate certificate instead of risking more disappointment. That hit me hard.
That whole struggle taught me the true definition of strength: never allowing people to tell you what you can and can’t do, but deciding what’s possible and impossible on your own terms.
So, I buckled down, took two college courses that year and passed the High School Assessment (HSA) test above their benchmarks. Even though everyone said I couldn’t and wouldn’t make it, I graduated high school with a 4.0 and all the college courses I took during high school with a 3.5. I ended up being invited back to speak to the students at the school.(Mother) It’s really been a journey for Shane. He’s had to overcome a lot at a very young age. For example, when his dad suffered a stroke, he lost a lot of his mobility and memory recall. Shane suffered all of that as an infant, so developmentally, he was stifled. But with a lot of determination and refusal to settle, he was able to excel as soon as he made it to the Baltimore Lab school. While there, he even found out he was gifted in photography when I sent some of his photographs he’d taken and they were later selected by the International Society of Photography. None of it’s been easy. But he never gave up.
(Shane) That whole struggle taught me the true definition of strength: never allowing people to tell you what you can and can’t do, but deciding what’s possible and impossible on your own terms. Back when we were going toe to toe with the school board, had I shown weakness and just taken the graduate certificate, I would never have realized what I’m capable of, and I wouldn’t be where I am today.