For some, finding success in school and making friends is second nature. For others, like recent Homer graduate Joseph Lundeen, it takes a little more time.
It wasn't for lack of trying. Joseph was diagnosed with severe Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder as a three-year-old which made learning and interacting with friends more difficult.
He started school at a larger district, but it wasn't the right fit. During his second grade year, Joseph transferred to Homer Elementary School where he found his place after bonding with several staff members.
“From there, he just had the most amazing teachers,” said his mother Melissa Lundeen. “They just really stepped up and made a difference.”
Joseph developed friendships with several teachers and administrators, but it took a little more time with his fellow students.
“I've known Joseph since the day he walked into our school,” said high school principal Randy Pirner. “He had his days and he struggled, but he was a nice little guy.”
Joseph said he made a few friends his own age after about three years in the Homer School District, but no one that he spent any time with outside of school.
“Everyone kind of zoned me out,” he said.
Adolescents with ADHD often struggle with interpersonal relationships and antisocial behaviors, in addition to having a hard time focusing, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“I'd sit down for a class and try to read and a locker would shut out in the hallway and I'd lose focus and not get it back for 10 minutes,” he explained.
However, once Joseph hit high school, things started to change for the better.
“Every year he just got more mature and took on more responsibilities,” Pirner said.
“He's just different in the sense that he's more confident in himself,” added his mother.
Joseph went out for both football and track during his senior year of high school, and despite a knee injury early in the football season, he still attended every practice and game.
“It was my senior year and I hadn't done anything and I was tired of it,” said Joseph.
The biggest issue that Joseph faced, however, was how to achieve his childhood dream of enlisting in the Army. In order to serve, he had to be free of his ADHD medication for a year prior to enlisting.
Under the watchful eye of his therapist and parents, Joseph went off his medication in 10th grade with the hope that he could function without it and join the military.
“I wanted this ever since I was little so I was going to try,” he said.
Fortunately, Joseph successfully transitioned off his medication and, assuming his knee injury is fully healed in August, will be able to join the military.
“He's one of these patients that there is hope you can get kids off this medication,” said his mother. “It's not a life sentence. Joseph had a chance and he took advantage of that. He could have been one that let life go, but that's not who he is.”
“We wouldn't give him up for anything... most days,” joked his father Jeff Lundeen with a smile.