By Sammy Kanter
Over the years, kids have shared dark secrets with Dr. Debbie Shulman. From the purple tablecloth, flowery light fixtures, and dozens upon dozens of family photos around her house, one would never guess.
"Life is uncertain, dessert first," reads the plaque above her oven.
And Shulman knows of this uncertainty. After working as a school psychologist in the Jamesville-DeWitt School District for 36 years, Shulman never sees what happens to most of the kids she meets.
"In this field, you often don't know the impact you have on youngsters," Shulman said.
"It's more fulfilling than the paycheck when you know you made a difference in kids lives."
After raising three children in Fayetteville, Shulman can run into former students in unlikely places.
"I don't know the ripple effect, but the stories keep me going," Shulman said.
Recently, Shulman recognized a young man standing next to her at the dry cleaner. After staring at each other, they figured out how they knew each other.
"I was a bad boy," the man said.
Shulman couldn't remember how badly he behaved. She later looked up his file, and realized who he was. Shulman spent intense hours with him when he was in school. When he ended up dropping out, she thought she failed him and her career.
Meeting him in the dry cleaner, she learned he had a job, an apartment and "enough money to be paying for his clothes to be dry cleaned," Shulman said.
As they parted ways, he told her," Keep up the good work. It pays off."
In Central New York, Shulman is well known for founding and serving as the president of the Rite Aid Drug Quiz Show. Shulman credits the idea to her daughter Jennifer. When Jennifer was in eighth grade, her mom dragged her to a J-D Chemical People Group meeting. The parent organization was brainstorming ways to teach drug awareness in middle school.