Noonan reveals turbulent journey towards happiness

Colleen Noonan“Wounds heal, but there is still a scar left,” senior Colleen Noonan said, with a hidden expression on her face.

It has been a long road for Noonan, who is looking forward to studying special education at Bellarmine University, a small, private, Catholic school in Louisville, Kentucky.

Noonan is also in her second year on Academic Decathlon, and will be one of the nine team members (out of 21 total) who earned a spot on the ‘Nationals team’. The team will be competing at Nationals in Albuquerque, New Mexico this week.

But before the highs, there came the lows.

Dealing with “severe” ADHD, Noonan was a part of what she referred to as the “guinea pig generation.”

Growing up in an era when little was known about the disorder, Noonan tried many different methods to numb her symptoms. Although she has had to deal with ADHD her whole life, Noonan takes pride in her differences.

“It makes up who I am,” Noonan said smiling.

Even though this obstacle is a source of pride for Noonan, other prior experiences have not been as positive.

Around the late elementary and pre-teen years, Noonan was bullied and sunk to new lows.

“I considered suicide,” Noonan said. “I was bullied, […] I sunk to a feeling of inferiority.”

Noonan was able to overcome these feelings, however, and she used the healing process as a learning process.

“I really learned a lot about forgiveness,” Noonan said. “I had to learn how to forgive others and how to forgive myself.”

In the aftermath of her darkest days, Noonan found Academic Decathlon to be somewhat of a healing remedy.

After joining the club in her junior year, Noonan has found the experience to be more than healing.

“It’s honestly been the best experience I’ve ever had,” Noonan said. “It has really changed me.”

Last year, Noonan also met her boyfriend at an Academic Decathlon competition. They are still dating, and he is currently attending the University of Dayton.

“[Academic] Decathlon has helped me to really come out of my shell,” Noonan said.

Noonan noted how the ‘team’ atmosphere, along with the competitive side of the club have had a positive impact on her last couple years of high school.

“The people in the class have to work as a team. There are no cliques, […] we have to work together,” Noonan said.

In such a short time on the team, Noonan has accomplished much.

Aside from being a part of the Nationals team, Noonan earned five medals at state last year in Charlotte, North Carolina; medals in art, language & literature, music, ‘super-quiz’, and the speech portion.

Noonan, having gone through what she has, takes pride in her speeches and believes that they are one of her strengths in competition.

“My speeches are very emotional, very raw,” Noonan said. “[The speeches] really mean a lot to me.”

While she uses her voice in competition, she also uses it recreationally, as she has been taking voice lessons since the seventh grade.

Noonan takes lessons at the BHA Piano Center shop in Dayton, and although she is also a member of the school choir, she states that singing is “a hobby more than anything.”

Looking ahead for Noonan, Academic Decathlon Nationals will round out her last year on the team. While she “doesn’t want to jinx the team,” confidence must be abound amongst a team that is currently ranked fourth in the nation.

And after high school, Noonan looks forward to her future at Bellarmine University, where she will study to be a Special Education teacher.

With all of Noonan’s prior experiences and tribulations, she believes that she will be fit for the teaching role.

“I’m really good at helping people ‘one-on-one’ and making things understandable,” Noonan said.

And while wounds may make permanent scars, the scars eventually become a part of the skin. And Noonan is certainly comfortable in her own skin.

Grant Pepper

pepper.grant@oakwoodschools.org

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