Alex Bean, 17, graduated from Frankel Jewish Academy with a 3.7 GPA and will be attending Indiana University
Alex Bean was only 13 years old when he heard his English teacher say, “I really don’t believe in Alex. I don’t think he has the ability to go anywhere in life.” She unknowingly revealed this to Bean while on speaker phone with his English tutor.
She called Bean later that day to apologize, but he wouldn’t accept it.
“I will use this every day to prove you wrong,” Bean told her.
Now Bean, 17, has graduated from Frankel Jewish Academy with a 3.7 GPA and will be attending Indiana University to study media, technology and culture with a minor in fashion design.
Bean was diagnosed with dyslexia in fourth grade. Throughout elementary and middle school, he was given excessive help.
“A lot of things were handed to me. I never had to put much effort into anything,” he said. “It became a curse. This only put me at a lower advantage for high school.”
When he started high school at FJA, everything changed. He was put into difficult classes and no longer had a hand to hold. Bean, who describes himself as an “anxious person,” became extremely overweight due to his stress. He leaned on therapy for his mental health, but this didn’t solve his other problems.
“They put me into a massive ocean,” he added. “I was always the kid who would say, ‘Everything is everyone else’s fault but mine.’ They thought I was just a kid that didn’t care. There were a lot of teachers who gave up on me.”
Bean encountered an especially difficult teacher his sophomore year. After continuing to fail in his class, Bean scheduled a meeting with the teacher, but it solved nothing. Bean said this teacher even called him an “idiot” and a “terrorist.”
Bean went to his parents, hoping they would fix the situation like usual. But this time was different. Seth Korelitz, director of Jewish studies at FJA, called Bean into his office.
“He told me going through life will only become a disaster if you rely on other people to take care of the issues for you,” Bean said. “It really made me think.”
Shortly after this experience, Bean was in a clothing store with his father. He noticed that while he tried on a size XXL hoodie, his father was wearing a men’s medium.
“It all hit me,” Bean said. “I realized that I need to become my own person.”
Bean started volunteering at Friendship Circle and getting involved with UMatter, a program focused on empowering teens to shatter the stigmas surrounding mental health challenges and suicide.
“I became very immersed in that world,” he said. “It taught me how to advocate for myself and be my own independent person.”
Bean also used music, writing and tennis to cope with his stress and anxiety.
“It was the first time in my day where I didn’t have to think about anything except hitting a ball,” he added.
Bean’s biggest inspiration is his aunt, Lindsey Finsilver, who passed away from cancer in 2016. Whenever he feels frustrated or unhappy, he thinks of his aunt for motivation.
“If she can fight, I can fight,” Bean said.
While Bean’s mental state was improving, so was his physical state. He lost nearly 50 pounds with the help of a teacher, Adam Shireman, who is also a bodybuilder. They shared goals and developed a friendship. Bean’s weight loss boosted his confidence in every aspect of his life.
“One day I woke up and I was dealing with everything on my own,” he said. “I’ve become very happy with who I am. I accept every single one of my flaws.”
This is first in a series about teens overcoming their mental health challenges.