Tempe teen becomes first home-schooler to snag prestigious Flinn Scholarship - East Valley Tribune: Arizona

Tempe teen becomes first home-schooler to snag prestigious Flinn Scholarship

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Posted: Wednesday, May 2, 2012 9:12 am | Updated: 6:33 am, Fri May 4, 2012.

Finishing his senior year of home-schooling with classes at Chandler Gilbert Community College, Tempe resident Jonny Woodbury, 17, is well on his way toward the math and computer science degrees he desires.

Becoming the first home-schooled student to be awarded a prestigious Flinn Scholarship will make the task ahead a bit easier in some ways, on top of making the college experience that much more exciting.

The Flinn Foundation announced last week the 22 seniors being awarded Flinn Scholarships this year — a distinction that includes in-state tuition to any Arizona public school, along with summer programs and study abroad opportunities.

That last piece is something Woodbury is most looking forward to, he said.

“I’ve only had a little bit of time to think about it,” he said when asked about where he might like to travel.

“I’m just excited to see what it’s going to mean for him in four years,” Jonny’s mom, Pam, said of her son’s scholarship.

Even prior to being awarded the Flinn — with MIT and CalTech as possibilities — Woodbury said he had his eye on ASU.

“Pretty much I’ve always liked the idea of not going far away for school,” he said.

Woodbury is the youngest of three children to be homeschooled by their engineer parents, Pam and Dave.

Jonny’s two older sisters also applied for Flinn scholarships. His eldest sister made it to the first round of interviews.

“Every year we have a number of home-schooled students apply for the Flinn Scholarship. The qualifications they need to attain are equivalent to those required of students at public and private high schools,” said Matt Ellsworth, assistant vice president of the Flinn Scholars Program. “Our interviewers on our final selection committee were struck by Jonny’s thoughtfulness and capacity to discuss articulately a wide variety of topics, from the U.S. space program, to constitutional law, to the philosophy of Søren Kierkegaard.”

Pam and Dave decided to start home-schooling when their oldest was 4. Because of her fall birthday, she would have had to wait to start kindergarten until she was nearly 6.

But she was already reading.

Pam was introduced to home-schooling by another mom and from there it just took off.

She and Jonny both remarked on the variety of learning paths that are available to home-schooling families, from co-ops in the community to connections with groups across the country and online courses.

“There are just so many options, so much opportunity, so much fun to be had,” Pam said of the years of home-schooling. “We spent a lot of time exploring things.”

Then there are the college classes Jonny has taken. An accomplished drummer, he’s played with community college ensembles for the last four years. He started taking academic courses at the community college his sophomore year (chemistry) and went on to take Spanish and additional math and sciences classes.

“College shouldn’t be too different with all the classes now at CGCC,” Jonny said of the transition in the fall.

Besides being a Flinn Scholar, Jonny is a National Merit Finalist and has long been a member of the Math Counts team his mom coached.

“What impresses me the most,” Pam says of her youngest child, “is there are so many things he knows about so many different topics. I don’t know how he keeps up with it all with music and school.”

This year’s Flinn Scholars come from across the state, with many from the East Valley. Gilbert’s Campo Verde High School and Chandler’s Hamilton Prep Academy have their first Flinn Scholars (Marissa Davis and Anna Carson, respectively). Chandler’s Hamilton High School has two (Lekha Anantuni and Stephen Bergauer), as does Tempe Union High School District’s Mountain Pointe High School (Thomas Bello and Ajay Karpur).

Other Flinn Scholars from the East Valley: Alexander Roesler of Mesa’s Mountain View High School and Anna Weiss of Tempe’s McClintock High School.

The Flinn Scholars Program pays for eight semesters of study at an Arizona public university (as long as students keep up a 3.2 grade point average), as well as a three-week summer seminar abroad and at least one additional study/travel experience abroad or in the United States.

Students will also be connected to mentors in their fields of study.

The Flinn Scholars Program began in 1986 and is supported by the Flinn Foundation, a Valley-based private, nonprofit.

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