By PRISCILLA GREEAR, Special To The Bulletin | Published May 23, 2013
ROSWELL—Erin Flynn always gravitated toward math and science and now reaches for the stars, career-wise, as valedictorian at Roswell High School.
Flynn will attend the Georgia Institute of Technology in the fall where she plans to major in material science engineering, aspiring to build, one day, equipment for space exploration. She will receive a materials engineering scholarship from Tech as well as a full-tuition Zell Miller Scholarship. Flynn is the daughter of Cathy and Tom Flynn and is a member of St. Andrew Church in Roswell.
Flynn’s high school world has revolved around school, church, and band with St. Andrew’s being her second family. There she has served as a catechist for kindergarten and first grade and a peer minister for the Edge and Life Teen youth programs.
She said, “I met my best friend Helen in my kindergarten CCD class, and over the years, I have met many of my dearest friends in CCD, Edge and Life Teen. They are the ones who have stood by me with helping hands and open hearts through everything. My friends and faith are what have kept me grounded throughout my life.”
And her experience of the 2011 World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain, made her really appreciate those friendships.
“Seeing the pope and meeting Catholics from all over the world was amazing, but beyond just opening my eyes to the vastness of God’s presence throughout the world, World Youth Day showed me God’s presence in my own life. … For me, the hardest part about faith is that God seems beyond my reach, but in Spain, I realized that he has been there the whole time,” she said.
She added, “My friends are what inspire my faith.”
Her faith has also focused her academically. That sometimes meant declining a party invitation when she needed to study.
“I always have to make that choice: ‘Do I want to be liked or do my best?’” she reflected. “Being the smart kid, people can sometimes be kind of mean to you. I always think that this is my gift from God and I’m not going to just hide from it. It’s kind of like ‘this little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.’”
Flynn loved learning everything in school and “kept pushing myself to get (an assignment) as perfect as I can get it.” She developed a fascination with space exploration and the question of life beyond Earth after visiting the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala.
“I’m terrified of space (but) it’s one of those things that has really fascinated me. I want to be part of the space program,” Flynn said.
She also loved participating in band where she marched tenor sax, played bassoon in the wind ensemble and served as captain. There she learned to discipline herself and set priorities for time management. “Band has been the one that has pretty much defined my high school career in a lot of ways. I’m going to join the Georgia Tech band and hopefully march there.”
Flynn follows her mother, who studied chemical engineering at Tech, and her older sister Katie, who just graduated. “My older sister was salutatorian. For me I had to get really good grades to be like her. I didn’t realize I was going to end up going as far as I did.”
Grounded in faith, Flynn is now eager to start fresh at Tech and continue that quest for achievement—only as less of a perfectionist.
“It is a concentration of smart people at a very rigorous school, so I have tried to resign myself to the idea that I will not be the best and may possibly get a B. … I only mean that I won’t beat myself up for every bad grade,” she said.
Nevertheless, she said, “I’ve always felt at home there and loved the atmosphere. It’s fun but smart.”