SSA’s Samuel Deutsch Professor Emerita Dolores “Dodie” Norton has spent four decades building a legacy of personalized teaching and original scholarship. Megan Flynn, a second-year student and the first recipient of SSA’s Dolores Norton Endowed Scholarship in Early Childhood Development, has taken her first steps down a similar yet ultimately distinct path.
“It’s an incredible honor,” Flynn says of the scholarship, given to an SSA student who demonstrates a blend of academic achievement, field work excellence and distinctive contributions to both her peers and the School. “Knowing about her work, having my name associated with Dodie’s is inspiring and humbling. After meeting her and building a friendship, it’s all the more meaningful.”
Flynn envisions herself contributing to the field of early childhood development in an administrative, policy and program evaluation role. Dating at least to her high school days in Chicago’s south suburbs, when she worked in a preschool, “I was always motivated to work with children and families,” she says.
“Megan is excellent in her understanding of the goals of a service agency and is very creative in helping to develop the technology and administration in an agency that will aid and enlighten clinical workers,” Norton says. “She was selected [for the scholarship] because of her interest in highly vulnerable families, and particularly young mothers with small children: How does one support them by helping social workers serve them more effectively?”
As an undergraduate at Saint Mary’s College in South Bend, Ind., Flynn studied social work, which she refers to as her “academic and professional soul mate,” and she spent a year as a legislative caseworker for then-U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., who was elected U.S. Senator in 2012. “I worked directly with older adults and their families on issues concerning Medicare, or Veterans Affairs—constituents who needed help navigating these systems, locating resources, understanding policies or just need to feel heard,” she says.
At SSA, Flynn’s exceptional classwork and responsibilities at her field placement were cited as key factors in being awarded the Norton Scholarship. At her first-year placement at Envision Unlimited, which serves adults with developmental disabilities, she facilitated client groups, undertook home visits and evaluated the impacts of programming. During her second year, Flynn has interned at Parenthesis Family Center, where she handles grant writing, fund raising and strategic planning, helping to create a blueprint for cost-effective community outreach and implement new systems to track client data and outcome measures.
“It’s a small but effective agency with only a handful of dedicated people,” Flynn says. "It’s been a great experience to understand the realities of what it’s like to run a nonprofit right now. Parenthesis has a collaborative and supportive team of people, who are very passionate about helping families with young children.”
“I’ve received incredible reviews of her preparedness, her concern for the kind of work they do, and what she can take out of it in her own future,” Norton says of Flynn. “I basically expected somebody who would be steeped in clinical work with children and families. I hadn’t realized I would get someone who not only filled that gap, but also used the knowledge gained to cross over and work for better policy and programs.
“She’s an incredible woman whose sincerity and passion is evident in everything she does,” Flynn says of Norton. “It’s a great motivator—all these people believed in me enough to give me this recognition. No matter how overwhelming the challenges may seem, I can always draw from the encouragement this honor has given me.” — Ed Finkel