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Sean Newman

Once a Viking, Always a Viking

Transformation Takes Grad from Juvey to Pre-Med

On the 50th Anniversary of the Golden Jubilee Celebration of the Educational Opportunity Fund, a graduating student addressed the crowd and shared what it means to him to be successful.

“My name is Sean Newman and I am a proud member of EOF,” he said.

Newman’s journey from child to young adult, from troublemaker to college graduate, was in his own words “truly amazing.” He hopes that his story will “serve as inspiration to everyone when it comes (to) overcoming challenges” in their own lives.

Present in the audience that evening, among fellow students, friends, faculty, and staff, were Newman’s mother and uncle, who continually supported the “non-traditional student” throughout his many lifelong challenges, including a difficult medical diagnosis and a stint in jail.

As a self-proclaimed “non-traditional” student, Newman explained that the title refers to more than just being a little older than most others in college. “I’m not referring to just my age, I’m also referring to the challenges and obstacles I’ve faced during my life. Like everyone, I’m no stranger to adversity and my life has been anything but easy.”

According to Newman, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at just nine years of age. “I suffered from depression, anxiety, anger, and a slew of other behavioral issues that presented themselves as roadblocks in my life. I never quite seemed to fit in with kids my age and I was forced to move from school to school. As I got older these problems only got worse, and over time they only served to increase the difficulties that I encountered in life.”

As a so-called bad boy, Newman wore the title with pride while in high school, skipping class, getting into fights, and being “openly defiant towards authority.” His behavior was so overboard, he even faced expulsion. But somehow, with the help of his mother and some other “wonderful people” in his life, Newman managed to graduate… at the bottom of his class.

After high school in 2006, Newman enrolled in college but soon had to drop out due to his ongoing depression and lack of direction. He wouldn’t return to school for another ten long years, and in his own words, “in between that time period I found myself in precarious situations with the law and moving from job to job, never quite being able to maintain stability or achieve peace of mind. I knew with this type of track record it wouldn’t be long before my award-winning charm and my charismatic attitude towards authority would catch up with me.”

And catch up with Newman it most certainly did.

“In the spring of 2010 I managed to hit the lottery and I won a four year prison sentence to Mountain View Youth Correctional Facility. My chickens had finally come home to roost. I would get the wakeup call that I had so desperately needed. It was during my time at Mountain View that I had a shift in perspective in how I saw myself and where I thought I was going in life. I began to work on myself and I began to start to remove the roadblocks that I had so masterfully set in place. As I left Mountain View, I began to make my way back into the world again. I started making amends by repairing the damage I had done to my relationships prior to my incarceration,” Newman reflected.

In 2016, two years after his release, Newman relocated to Ocean County and enrolled at OCC. “I had nothing but the clothes on my back, a few dollars in my pocket, and no job … but I still had that award-winning personality.” According to Newman, his self-proclaimed “charm” along with the faculty, staff, and students he met at OCC became a “vital component” to his ultimate success.

However, Newman tried to put his troubled past behind him, but his difficulties continued. One such issue was having to rely on public transportation, which restricted his life. Riding the bus to and from school every day, Newman attended classes and worked, saving bits of money here and there, socking it away so he could afford his own car. “It was a hard, grueling, and backbreaking endeavor but it finally paid off when I was able to finally afford my own car. I no longer needed to rely on a bus schedule to get around and with that, new and exciting opportunities were now available to me that were not before.”

Newman explained that this somewhat “small accomplishment” was “ground breaking” for him. “This was the first sign that my life was returning to a state of normalcy, giving me a long-awaited peace of mind.”

And this one small accomplishment turned into one accomplishment after another: he became an Orientation Leader for Student Life, he was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa and EOF’s Honor Society, and he won second place in a medical math competition against four-year colleges. Recently, Newman was accepted into the Honors program with a Pre-Med track at Stockton University. Some heady stuff for the boy with an award-winning attitude against authority!

“Success has finally become a common theme in my life, as opposed to the failure I had gotten used to previously. I believe that everyone has it in them to overcome the disadvantages life may give (them).”

“Calling Dr. Newman,” Life concluded. STAT!

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