By GAIL LOWE
WAKEFIELD — Most young people have their share of challenges, some more than others.
Many have experienced the breakdown of their families, while others have parents who have died or have suffered the loss of their livelihoods.
But some have a different kind of difficulty. In addition to other challenges, they might have a learning disability, physical handicap or emotional disorder.
Wakefield’s John Flynn, 18, has risen above his own challenges — emotional, social and educational — because of the help his family has provided and the unique educational opportunities he has had through an educational organization known as maaps (Massachusetts Association of Approved Private Schools).
Flynn, one of triplets born to Ginny and Matthew Flynn, has the intense support of his family and the schools he attends. He is currently a senior dually enrolled at the Clearway School in Newton and Bunker Hill Community College, where he is working toward his associate’s degree in computer science. He also participates in a work study program at Newton-Wellesley Hospital and volunteers his time to read newspapers to an elderly man whose eyesight has failed. To round out his volunteer experience, he has worked at the Pine Street Inn where he has cooked meals for residents.
After graduation, he hopes to continue his studies in the computer field at the University of Massachusetts, since technology is one of his primary interests.
Computer work suits him because of his mechanical ability, said Flynn. He told a recent visitor that he can look at all the parts of a computer spread across the floor and figure out where each part fits without looking at a diagram. In fact, the computer he uses in the basement of his family’s tri-level home in the Montrose section of Wakefield is one that John built himself.
“The environment at these schools has helped me a lot,” said Flynn. “Class sizes are small — with 10 students or less. The long bus ride to outlying areas — well over an hour each way — has been worth it. I’ve been the first on and the last off for the past nine years.”
Flynn began his education at the Woodville School and remained there through grade 3. He also studied at Wakefield Memorial High School but he and his parents felt he could do much better in maaps member schools where educators concentrate on social and emotional development.
Maaps is based in Wakefield and has 85 member schools that provide high quality and cost effective educational programs and services to students with special needs throughout the state. Its member schools operate over 150 day and residential programs and schools, providing education and treatment to approximately 5,500 Massachusetts students with disabilities. The association also brings in over $144 million into the state’s economy in tuition payments from about 1,500 out-of-state students and students from other countries. Maaps also employs over 9,000 teachers, clinicians and residential care staff.
For many students, maaps schools represent their first real opportunity for hope and achievement in becoming productive members of society.
Flynn now plans to share his compelling story at a private legislative breakfast at the State House in Boston on Wednesday, March 18. The event, sponsored by House Speaker Pro Tempore Rep. Patricia Haddad (D-Somerset), will be held in the House members’ lounge and Flynn will get to meet legislators who have helped make his education possible.
“John has had to overcome a lot of challenges, and he’s looking forward to meeting legislators who have helped him at the March 18 breakfast,” said James Major, executive director of maaps. “While at Clearway, he has been a dedicated and persistent student, one intent on gaining skills for his future. He has definite plans and goals.” Major added that until they enroll in a maaps school, students are often told that they cannot do something. When they become a student at a maaps school, they are shown how they can do it.
At the breakfast, it is Major’s hope that legislators will see first-hand how their efforts have paid off.
As for Flynn, he said he was looking forward to speaking at the breakfast. “Our lawmakers have helped make my education — and the education for many others — possible.”