Since he was a kid, Catalina Foothills student Noah Wellman had a deal with his dad: If he got a full scholarship to college, his dad would buy him a car. Years in the making, that goal came true when Wellman earned the Flinn Scholarship, valued at more than $100,000.
“It was in the back of my mind for a while, and this year I finally went through the interview process,” Wellman said. “I found out in mid-March. It was really exciting. I shared it with some of my teachers that I thought had a big impact on my academic career. It’s a very comforting thing to be able to go through college without accumulating a lot of debt, which is increasingly a problem for people my age.”
The Flinn Scholarship, now in its 37th year, is one of the most lucrative merit-based scholarships in the state. It provides a full ride for college at one of Arizona’s public universities, and additional options for study-abroad experience. This year, more than 1,000 Arizona students applied, but only 20 received the scholarship — less than a 2% acceptance rate.
“My family was pretty surprised and happy. It was a long application process,” Wellman said. “One of the biggest moments was when the semi-finalists were announced. They cut the applications from 1,200 to 80 students. I kind of felt like I wouldn’t make it. But from there, I feel it was just a matter of who happened to resonate with the interviewers. All of the other candidates were strong. But I was so happy to hear that the Flinn Foundation selected me.”
Wellman will attend the University of Arizona, where he plans to study physics. He says he has always been interested in science, and while he might switch to another STEM major, physics is a good foundation for him.
“The sciences are something I’ve always been interested in. My dad is a geological engineer and my grandpa worked at NASA for a while on some of the Mars rover projects. So it’s part of heritage,” Wellman said. “I really enjoy math and science, and trying to understand the world in a concrete way.”
These interests are reflected in Wellman’s extracurriculars throughout his time at Catalina Foothills High School. He participated in robotics club, tech challenge, and the science Olympiad, which allows student teams to show off their STEM knowledge in a competitive environment.
Wellman says he is grateful to the variety of resources Catalina Foothills School District provided through his 12 years of education. Beyond the extracurriculars, he says the teachers were very supportive.
He selected math teacher Alyssa Keri as his distinguished educator on the Flinn application. Wellman said Ms. Keri guided him through math understanding, not just for himself, but also “learning how to communicate and share that understanding with others.”
Wellman also highlighted English teacher Brian Bindschadler from Orange Grove Middle School, who helped build a strong foundation in writing that carried him through his high school years and definitely helped with the Flinn application process.
“I’m really grateful for all the opportunities. I enjoyed not just the science side of things, but I also got to participate in the band as a drum major. We got to do arranging and orchestrating in a small ensemble class,” Wellman said. “That helped make it a really fulfilling high school experience.”
Although attaining the scholarship was a long time coming, Wellman says his advice for future students is to not be too focused on a single goal.
“I know I had the Flinn Scholarship in the back of my mind, but it’s not always the best idea to have just one college or one thing you want to do after high school,” Wellman said. “Really, what appealed to the Flinn Foundation about me is that I focused on doing what I was interested in through high school. I joined band and science Olympiad. I followed what interested me, and that’s really what’s important, especially at this stage in life — find what interests you and pursue it.”