Marian Student Empowered by his Own Journey

Colyn Berg grew up in Blair, a small town in Wisconsin near La Crosse, and attended Blair-Taylor Middle/High School. Debilitated by undiagnosed depression and anxiety that started in seventh grade, Colyn was constantly in the school health aide’s office and found himself repeatedly being sent home from school. While unaware at the onset, Colyn was experiencing the physical symptoms that accompany panic attacks. With these increasing in frequency, Colyn isolated in his home for months. Focused on the physical side effects he was experiencing; his medical providers did not initially recognize these as a manifestation of an undiagnosed mental health disorder.

Care Team Helps Colyn Navigate Diagnosis & Treatment
As Colyn began to withdraw from school, his school health aide was the first light that permeated this dark and lonely place. She recognized his struggles, refused to let him slip further into a depression, and encouraged him to seek the advice of his doctor. After receiving a mental health diagnosis from his primary care provider, Colyn was referred to a licensed clinical social worker and psychiatrist. It was a long road that included psychotherapy, adjustments to daily life, and medication, but Colyn was able to re-engage in everyday life, including school. At the advice and assistance of his school counselor, Colyn eased back into the learning environment through a transition to online classes. His Family and Consumer Science teacher was instrumental in helping Colyn overcome his anxiety and participate in field trips and school clubs. She even encouraged him to explore leadership positions in the school clubs which Colyn takes great pride in accomplishing. Not only did he find success again, but he began to flourish – even winning the La Crosse Tribune’s Extra Effort Award the same year he graduated from high school (2020).

Colyn initially believed people seeking mental health care must need to be “severally unstable” and admits, “I never realized how stigmatized mental health care was until I recognized my own stigmatized thinking.” Colyn credits his care team with being part of the process that helped “rebuild” him as they offered strategies for coping with, or resolving, each struggle and helped inspire his hope for the future. Graduating from high school with 45 college credits, Colyn’s journey through middle and high school is defined by resiliency through struggles, adaptability with change, and courage to face into the battle against mental illness.

Small School Becomes a Big Family

After graduating from high school in 2020, Colyn enrolled at Northcentral Technical College (NTC) and earned his associate’s degree in human services in May of 2021. He has worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant, and obtained an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) license. With his goal to pursue a bachelor’s degree in social work, Colyn’s program director at NTC connected him with a few schools that specifically offered an online social work program.  Colyn began working with Dr. Leslie Jaber-Wilson and transferred to Marian, after discovering the support he received and ease of transfer was unmatched by the other schools he explored.

Now beginning his second semester at Marian University, Colyn has added psychology as a second major. Grateful to have chosen Marian’s new online program, he describes the learning environment as a “home away from home.” He’s excited to work with professors that are there to help him grow, while also helping to grow this new program. He finds the consistent communication critical in his success, and has identified a variety of resources online that enhance his academic experiences. Colyn is impressed by the opportunities available at Marian and believes he’s found a lifelong family.

Impassioned to be an Advocate for Others

Colyn is already a passionate advocate of his own mental health care, and hopes to build his social work career around helping other children and young adolescents that face similar struggles. It wasn’t surprising to learn that he’s not stopping there. Further driven by his goals and motivated by achievement, Colyn plans to attend graduate school and aspires to, one day, become a college professor. With this in mind, he is proactive about engaging faculty in pivotal conversations – now – about his future. Colyn appreciates the support received by amazing faculty, such as Associate Professor of Psychology and Psychology Program Chair, Dr. Amy Hennings, and shares, “Not only do the faculty support you in your immediate goals, but they come alongside you in support of your future plans.” Empowered by his pursuit to offer others the same hope that changed his life, Colyn recognizes the weakness that once held him back, is now the strength that propels him forward.

Marian University’s 100% Online Social Work program brings the best of our traditional on-campus program into a convenient online format. The program is facilitated by professors that are practicing social work experts in their field, and includes a faculty-coordinated internship in your local community. Visit our website to learn more about Marian’s new, online bachelor of social work program.