Editor’s note: In May 2018, the Robbinsville Advance celebrated its 10th anniversary by featuring people from its past. Throughout the next year, the Advance will continue to catch up with those who have graced our pages since May 2008. This month’s subject is Brian Flynn, who graduated in 2008 as the first valedictorian in Robbinsville High School history.
It’s been 10 years since Robbinsville High School’s 2008 valedictorian made his speech to the school’s first-ever graduating class. Today, he’s busy working hard enough to make his school proud again.
After graduating from RHS, Brian Flynn attended The College of New Jersey as a biology major and went on to medical school at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine. Today, Flynn is entering his third year as a neurology resident at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia.
When he finishes his residency, Flynn plans to do a fellowship with the hopes of eventually moving back to New Jersey to practice medicine. But for now, he’s enjoying what he’s learning at Temple.
“Where Temple is, it’s a different socioeconomic landscape than Robbinsville so, as challenging as it can be at times, I really enjoy having the opportunity to give back to the community, taking care of patients from Northeast Philly that don’t always have access to physicians,” Flynn said. “It’s extremely rewarding.”
Flynn enjoys the problem solving associated with specializing in neurology. His average day, during the week, can range from 10 to 12 hours at the hospital. During his days on-call, Flynn can be at the hospital for up to 28 hours straight.
“Those are the most challenging days,” Flynn said. “They’re also the days that I learn the most.”
Flynn attributes a lot of his skills and career interest to his teachers at RHS. He still keeps in touch with two of his teachers, today. Dr. Sandy Overton, who recently retired, was a middle school science teacher who moved up with Flynn’s class to teach biology at RHS.
“He helped shape my interest in medicine and my decision to become a biology major,” Flynn said.
Andrew Patterson, who still teaches English at RHS today, also left a positive impression on Flynn. He described Patterson as always being “on our side” when it came to academics and sports. Flynn, a former football player at RHS, complimented Patterson’s leadership role on the football team at the high school. Patterson is now the head coach of the team.
Flynn praised his teachers’ abilities to get the school’s academics and athletics off the ground.
“A lot of times, our teachers were also our coaches,” Flynn said. “Our gym teacher was our football coach, our math teacher was our track coach, and our science teacher was our baseball coach. Because of this, we really got to know them pretty well, and a lot of students have kept in touch with their teachers, post-graduation.”
Flynn said that, in the years since graduation, a few of the students have even been invited to some of their teacher’s weddings.
Flynn entered RHS as a freshman, when the school opened. He experienced the oddities of going to a brand-new school in addition to the normal challenges of transitioning from middle school to high school. When he spoke with people, in college and medical school, who graduated from established high schools, Flynn realized how different many of their high school experiences were from his. But, even though RHS was new, Flynn said the school did a great job in preparing its students for their future endeavors.
During his freshman year, RHS only had the one class to represent its athletics. There were no upperclassmen to go out for the school’s teams.
“As a new high school, it was normal for students to play multiple sports and be involved in multiple extracurricular activities,” said Flynn, who alternated being on the school’s football, cross-country, track, swimming, and baseball teams throughout his four years at RHS. “That was the norm, when we started. They wanted us to be well-rounded and get involved in academics, sports, and community involvement.”
The high school’s administration encouraged the students to get involved in as much as they could, but not so much so that they weren’t doing a good job, Flynn said. Being given the unique opportunity to come up with ideas, implement them, and get the momentum going for new school clubs ultimately contributed to the student’s leadership skills.
“If you wanted something done or you wanted to be a part of something, you really had to put yourself out there, invest your time in it, and see it through in order for it to be successful,” Flynn said. “That [skillset] has helped me in what I’m doing now, as a neurology resident.”
Flynn looks back fondly on his senior year, as the first year of being at a “normal” capacity, with all four classes, and graduation day as RHS’s first valedictorian.
“It was an honor,” Flynn said. “There were multiple people in my class that were definitely deserving of it. It was a special treat to be the first-ever valedictorian, to be able to address the community at the first graduation. I know our class, as a whole, has done very well for themselves, and it’s pretty cool that I had the opportunity to represent them by speaking at graduation. I still look back on that moment.”
The time has passed swiftly, and Flynn enjoys keeping in touch with his former classmates while they get married and have families of their own.
“The fact that we’re already at 10 years since we graduated doesn’t seem real,” Flynn said. “It’s cool to see where everybody’s lives have taken them since graduating.”
Flynn said he hasn’t heard about any plans for RHS’s first-ever 10-year high school reunion yet, but the Class of 2008 will always be able to enjoy the acknowledgment of being RHS’s first students.