(Note: In recognition of the vital role vocational education plays in our schools and communities, this is one in a series of stories of success achieved by local students who participated in the Career & Technical Education program through the Clare-Gladwin Regional Education Service District.)
As a child and young adult, Cory St. Denis endured a classroom struggle familiar to millions of Americas. That he graduated from Harrison High School in 2006 and his signature now bears the abbreviation “Dr.” in front of his name is a great success story; how he got there is pretty good, too.
Today, St. Denis is a licensed chiropractor specializing in treating kids and adults with neurological conditions like ADD/ADHD, Aspergers, autism spectrum disorders, metabolic dysfunction, PTSD and more. But it took him a lot of work – and a lot of extra work – to arrive at this juncture.
“As a child and into my emerging adulthood, I have struggled with ADD/ADHD while in school, and maintaining focus has always been an area of concern for me,” St. Denis said. “It seems like I have always had to learn things the hard way.”
His counselor at HHS, Deb FlemingDittenber, steered him toward the Health Occupations class in the Clare-Gladwin Career & Technical Education program.
“As I began to better comprehend what it really meant to have a career in the health care field through the CTE program, I dug in deeper and began to spend time in both chiropractic and physical therapy offices in order to make a more informed decision about which path to follow once I left the high school,” he said.
“My real ‘aha’ moment was after spending weeks in each office and beginning to better understand the scope of practice for each career. I realized that if I wanted to be a primary care physician who avoids the use of drugs and surgery, I needed to stick to chiropractic.”
St. Denis achieved that career clarity at a time when many young people are still trying to figure out their place in the workforce. As is often the case for CTE students, his on-the-job training – job shadowing – was key.
“That time I spent in those physical therapy and chiropractic offices through the CTE program was truly eye-opening,” he said. “I was able to distinguish the difference between the two in the fact that the chiropractor was a primary care physician, meaning he or she needed no referral to administer care. A patient could ‘walk in’ and have a consultation and examination that would determine if the patient were in the correct office for the correct type of health care.”
Providing the “correct type of health care” was particularly important to St. Denis.
“At the time, I had dreamt of pursuing a doctorate degree in medicine, but I knew that I was not interested in using harmful medications or surgeries or experiments on my patients,” he said. “Rather, I was more interested in the basic and proven functions of the human body such as self-healing and self-regulation of body systems.”
Not surprisingly, St. Denis offers a strong endorsement for high school students considering CTE.
“Take it from me as someone who struggled in school from middle school to my last test to become a doctor: You don’t know how smart you are,” he said. “If you say ‘I can’t’ before you even try, you will never get as far in life as you can. Getting started is the biggest hurdle for most people because it means that you need to leave your comfort zone. It might seem like postgraduation decisions are far away and insignificant, but they aren’t. It doesn’t matter what you do, just do something. Going through the CTE program and learning about an area of career interest may just be the first step to finding the passion you will need to survive life as an adult.”
As someone who overcame his classroom struggles to earn a doctorate and complete more than 500 hours of post-doctoral study in functional neurology, St. Denis is living proof for his patients that there’s a path to career success and satisfaction.
“My life has been changed by studying and receiving the benefits of living a life of brain-based wellness through specific dietary choices, movement and exercise, and with neurologically-based chiropractic care,” he said. “This change is what drives me to work with children and families in my area who are also suffering.
“There is nothing better than sitting down with a family after they start care with me and hearing, ‘My child was scoring at a first-grade level in the fourth grade last year, and this year he is scoring in the seventh- and eighth-grade levels and his behavior has completely normalized.’ Or ‘My child’s teacher said that she’s the leader in the classroom this year, which has never happened before.’ Watching the stress leave these families brings all of this full circle. Because of CTE, I became a doctor. Because of CTE, I am helping families.”