Flewellen ’98, works to open new charter school
If you visit a coffee shop with Vincent Flewellen, ’98, you may find it takes a few extra minutes to reach your table. At Kayak’s Coffee in St. Louis, he stops to greet four separate groups of people, who don’t all know each other, but they all know him. Flewellen says “hello” to neighbors, colleagues in education and social services, and a university student, inquiring after the young man’s family and receiving an invitation to an upcoming sporting event.
Flewellen, 40, finished his bachelor’s degree in education at Maryville University in 1998, after beginning his studies at the University of Missouri-Columbia. In 2005, he earned a master’s degree from the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis. And he has combined his education and work experience in undertakings to benefit the city’s children and families.
He’s currently the chair of a founding board working to establish a new charter school, Lighthouse Academies of St. Louis. Flewellen is well aware that charter schools in the region have had varying degrees of success, but points out the not-for-profit management company of Lighthouse Academies has a strong national reputation. “They’re about the business of educating children, not the business of making money,” he says. The plan is for a new school to open next year, north of Delmar Boulevard, with an arts-infused curriculum. The proposal is currently being reviewed for necessary approvals, but the hope is to begin with a kindergarten through fifth grade, and expand over time to include a high school.
Flewellen’s full-time job is as the director of development for Neighborhood Houses, a 98-year-old social services agency that provides support for low-income families, early childhood education and after-school care, and parenting programs for teen mothers. Flewellen loves the work, for “the ability to connect with other individuals and align others’ philanthropic desires with the mission and work of our agency.”
He likes how many people offer to help when opportunities present themselves. “I think it’s often difficult for people to say `no’ to kids. Also, people want to give and help, but sometimes they don’t know how.” Neighborhood Houses’ early education programs are available to children from 6 weeks of age to 5 years. Flewellen said families who take part understand the importance of having their kids in an educational environment and giving them a foundation for academic success.
Flewellen said professors at Maryville University, like Mary Ellen Finch, PhD —now the vice president for academic affairs—and Sunny Pervil, PhD, who retired from Maryville in 2007, made a real difference in his own education. Pervil, well known for her work related to gifted education, is lending her expertise to the proposed charter school, he says. “Those two were fantastic,” he says of his time learning from them.
Flewellen previously worked at Teach for America and taught elementary school in the area. Other current involvements include serving his neighborhood on the Skinker-DeBaliviere Community Council and working as a teaching assistant at Washington University. His time at Maryville made a difference in his own continuing commitment to education. “When I got to Maryville University and made the Dean’s List, it just really turned things around,” he says.