Roanoke College president shares experience with dyslexia during visit to North Cross School

Published: Feb. 9, 2023 at 8:30 PM EST
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ROANOKE CO., Va. (WDBJ) - Frank Shushok became the 12th President of Roanoke College last year.

He says that would surprise a younger version of himself - the high school student in McKinney Texas, who was convinced he couldn’t succeed in the classroom.

This week, Shushok shared his experience with dyslexia, and some of the lessons he’s learned, with students at North Cross School.

“I barely graduated from high school. Really. I barely graduated from high school,” Shushok said during a student assembly. “I spent the summer of my sophomore year in high school repeating two classes that I failed that year. I spent the first 17 years of my life thinking I wasn’t smart. In my head, I thought I was dumb.”

Shushok visited North Cross Monday morning, touring the Roanoke County campus and learning more about the CrossWalk Program that has helped students with language-based learning disabilities for the past ten years.

He spoke of the people in his life who helped him adapt, develop a new mindset and believe in himself.

“Enter two beautiful teachers, Gail Pack and Keith Christian. They saw what I couldn’t see for myself, that I wasn’t intellectually inferior. They could tell that I had just quit trying. I had accepted an identity that I had been building for years that I wasn’t smart. They confronted me. They walked with me. They challenged me. They held me accountable,” Shushok said. “For some reason, I listened to them.”

North Cross students who have benefitted from the CrossWalk program said they could relate to Shushok’s experience. So we asked them for their insight.

“Definitely don’t let it define you,” said junior Blake Shaner. “It’s something that you can’t necessarily overcome, but adapt and grow with. Use it to your advantage, not as a disadvantage.”

“Just go in for the extra help you need. It’s not that hard,” said senior Ethan Dalaski. “It is a little, but it’s mostly getting over the slight embarrassment that you have to go in after class. And it’s not that bad.”

“I’d say don’t give up, because things get a whole lot better,” added sophomore Ava Dalaski. “And you just need to find people, like he said, that support you and care about you.”

And that’s advice Frank Shushok can embrace.

“If we can step forward with a little bit of bravery, and a little bit of courage, and be open and receive those who care about us in the ways that influence us,” Shushok said in an interview, “then the next thing we know we’re going to be surprised about what life has to offer for us.”