Education has always played a key role in serving children at Boys Town.
In 1917, Father Edward J. Flanagan founded Boys Town as a revolutionary home for children. At Boys Town, children were valued, nurtured and cared for with compassion and understanding.
Boys Town’s approach called for accepting all children, regardless of their race, religion or social standing. Father Flanagan also believed all children had the right to an education and that the power of having an education could change the life of any child. In 1918, he realized that having the boys in his care attend public schools in Omaha was not working. The boys were often bullied for living at Father Flanagan’s Home and often did not receive equal treatment in the classroom due to their race or religion.
That same year, Father Flanagan started his first Boys Town School.
The Boys Town School would focus on much more than academic achievement. Father Flanagan stated, “…The school has a definite part to play in character education and citizenship training….” The first teachers at the school included mentors from the Omaha community, nuns and Father Flanagan himself. Each boy was evaluated to determine his academic level and to identify any learning deficiencies that needed to be addressed. The School began with elementary classes, and a new grade was added each year.
By 1937, Father Flanagan had achieved his dream of providing his boys with a fully accredited high school program. As a new decade approached and the size of graduation classes began to increase, he developed plans for a massive expansion of Boys Town’s education program in the late 1940s.
As this system continued to expand, it was apparent that Boys Town Schools were not ordinary community schools. Father Flanagan once said “…Our school is accredited by the State of Nebraska and is, I believe, one of the finest that can be found anywhere in a community of like size. Our teachers are chosen because of their outstanding ability and training and because of their proven success in working with boys….”
Today, those principles live on.
Life as a Boys Town student is similar to all kids. Living in family-style homes, they go to school, participate in sports and other extracurricular activities and do chores and homework. They learn valuable social skills that will allow them to compete for jobs and be able to communicate effectively with others.
During Father Flanagan’s early years, teachers and instructors became role models and served as surrogate mothers and fathers for the students. Over the decades, these dedicated individuals helped guide children toward a brighter future by providing them with a quality education, as well as instruction in a trade. (Father Flanagan always said he wanted his students to leave the Home with these “two strikes in their favor.”) Most former students credit the education they received at Boys Town for preparing them to become productive adults.
Boys Town Schools and the Boys Town Education Model® have continually developed in order to meet and adapt to the changing needs of students. Today, the boys and girls of Boys Town continue to receive the quality education Father Flanagan envisioned when he founded his first school nearly 100 years ago.