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Jun 11, 2012

Bright Spots - First Homeschooled Student to Win Flinn Scholarship

Charity Klicka

    Jonny Woodbury is an ambitious homeschooler working towards a career with large numbers.

   He recently completed his senior year of studies, which included college courses from Chandler-Gilbert Community College. In the fall (2012), he will attend Barrett, the Honors College at Arizona State University and major in math and computer science.

     But the seventeen-year-old teenager from Tempe, Arizona has made history with just a single digit: 1.

   Woodbury is the only homeschooled student to be awarded the prestigious Flinn Scholarship in the program’s 27-year history. Winning the scholarship will make the task of achieving two college degrees in math and computer science a bit easier, 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. The Flinn Scholarship is worth more than $100,000, which can be applied to summer programs and study abroad opportunities, as well as in-state tuition and board to any Arizona state college or university.

   Woodbury related that he was very excited about the study abroad opportunities that come with the Flinn Scholarship. “I’ve only had a little bit of time to think about it,” he said when asked about where he might like to travel.

   Once his chosen college degrees from Arizona State University are completed, Woodbury hopes to apply his college education in pursuit of a career in data journalism.

"I love numbers and patterns," he said.

“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.

   Like his two older sisters, Woodbury has been homeschooled his entire life, with the exception of some community-college classes. His tenure at ASU, which includes living on campus, will be his first full-time experience in a traditional classroom setting.

   Yet that doesn’t mean it will be his first experience exercising good time management and organizational skills.

“I didn’t have a bell, but I did have a mom,” Woodbury explained, referring to his at-home teacher.

   Nor does Woodbury feel deprived of the components that come with traditional schooling. "I never thought I was missing out on anything," he said.

“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.”

   His deep and diverse interest in subjects and ability to discuss topics that are uncommon among many high school seniors' everyday dialogue can be credited in part to his homeschool education, Woodbury said.

   “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.”

   Woodbury said he is grateful to instructors such has his percussion and music teachers, a friend's parent who taught his higher-level English courses and his community college professors who have shaped his education over the years, been good role models and helped him earn the scholarship.

"It's a great opportunity and it's going to open a lot of doors that may not have opened as easily," Mrs. Woodbury said. "It's neat to see that a homeschooler can get this award."

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