QUINCY — Jacob Flynn knows all about the satisfaction of setting a goal and achieving it.
“I had always wanted to go on to college,” Flynn said.
The 22-year-old from Mount Sterling graduated Saturday from Quincy University, which held two ceremonies to recognize its Class of 2021.
Flynn had some initial doubts about attending college, reaching beyond just the daily challenges of cerebral palsy that keep him in a wheelchair, but said his experience can provide a valuable lesson to others.
“If you have the drive, even if you’re worried about not being able to do it, if I can do it, you can do it,” he said.
Along the way, he had the support of family, friends, school officials and, especially, his mom Cherry Flynn.
When the family learned state services provide only 16 hours of care for college students, which would have left Jacob on his own overnight, “I was not OK with that. He can’t move. If he needed anything in the night, there’d be nobody to help him, so I quit my job and came with him. I don’t know who was more terrified, him or I,” Cherry said.
“I think it was equal,” Jacob said.
Mother and son conquered their fear, learning more about themselves and others while finding a second home at QU where Flynn majored in history with a minor in criminal justice and was involved in honor society, criminal justice honor society, Students for Life, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Recycling Club.
“I’ve tried to let it be as normal as possible. Unfortunately, he’s the only one dragging his mom along behind him,” Cherry said.
“It’s not been that bad,” Jacob countered. “We’ve got along well. Most of the time.”
Their typical day sounded like any college student’s — getting up, going to classes and doing homework — except without any all-nighters.
“I told him I’m too old to stay up to 2 a.m. working on homework,” Cherry said.
She took notes in class — “she writes everything,” Jacob said — with almost everything else up to him.
“I’m a slow typist,” Jacob said.
“He can use the computer on his own, but to type papers, it would take him forever,” Cherry said. “Being a history major, he had a lot of papers. I’m ready to be done with that.”
The pair lived on campus Monday through Friday, then headed home to Mount Sterling each weekend to check on the house, the animals and any papers Cherry needed for her work, done remotely, as city treasurer.
“It’s been a fast four years and a good four years,” said Cherry, who received the Franciscan Service Award during the ceremony in recognition of her “unwavering witness of unconditional love” for Jacob and the students of QU.
“This has really been one of the best experiences of my life,” Jacob said.
Born 10 weeks early and weighing just over 3 pounds, Jacob was diagnosed with a form of CP caused by lack of oxygen after he was born. He can’t stand on his own, but he easily zips around in his wheelchair.
“I’ve always taught him he was lucky. We’ve seen a lot of kids in the hospital that have mental issues and that are very severely handicapped,” Cherry said. “He just has the physical issues. We can live with the rest.”
Next steps for mother and son will mean more adjustments as Jacob looks for work in the area, ideally something remote at first due to the pandemic and then in-person.
“It will be different, especially if he does get a job,” Cherry said. “He will always have to have someone with him 24/7. If we can’t find anybody, it will be me.”
No matter what, she’ll let him take the lead, just as he did at QU.
“I’ve just been kind of in the background. You’re the one that pushed yourself, not me,” Cherry told her son.
“You’ve been more than in the background,” Jacob said. “Without you, I couldn’t have got it done.”