The Real Big Man On Campus

Rachel Seo, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Originally published in The Wrangler annual magazine.

Every week, Principal Dave Flynn purposely sits outside the Administration office during lunch, near the roundabout that provides both a convenient place for parents to drop off their kids and the resting spot for the American flag. It’s a safety measure, one to ensure that high schoolers are not wandering off campus, as well as an opportunity for him to interact with the student body. For me, however, it’s the perfect chance to interview the man who’s been with this school for its entire existence, and to probe his mind about YLHS and the philosophy behind his job.

To a casual observer, he might seem intimidating, a figure of authority referred to most in the abstract. After all, he’s the principal of Yorba Linda High School, and has been since the school’s founding in 2009. Across the seven-year span of YLHS’s existence, he’s overseen its growth from fledgling institution into a California Distinguished School, a Gold Ribbon one with an Exemplary Arts program.

As it turns out, his initial vocational intent wasn’t to become a principal. “I never started out thinking, I have to be a high school principal,” he says. “My goal was just to work with young people, and it always has been.” Though he makes decisions behind closed doors now, originally, he began his career in the educational field as a teacher in both junior high and high school. He eventually became a counselor and climbed up the administrative ladder, moving to assistant principal, and eventually principal of Yorba Linda High School. To him, his life has been a testament to taking advantage of opportunities, while also following a baseline that gives him purpose for what he does. “Opportunities opened themselves up for me to take on more and more challenges,” he says, “but my ultimate goal was just to work with young people.”

Across YLHS’s relatively short history, he has had the chance to watch it grow into the establishment it is today. “I think the biggest change is the number of programs and clubs that we offer here,” he says, thinking back to how it was in the beginning. “Starting off with just ninth- and tenth-graders in 2009, we were limited on all the elective programs. But as we’ve added the eleventh- and twelfth-graders and more and more staff, we’ve had the opportunity to do Mock Trial, Speech and Debate, Science Olympiad, [and] Business Academy…I think the programs the teachers are willing to offer their students has grown immensely, along with a number of clubs. I mean, we started off with twenty-eight and now we’re up to fifty, fifty-plus clubs on campus. That’s probably the biggest change that I’ve seen…just the change in opportunities for students.”

The gift of opportunity is a recurring theme in his life. Because he’s been given the opportunities to succeed in his own life, he now sees it as his duty, as principal, to “make everyone successful.” Part of his job is to look at Yorba Linda High School as a composite whole, and to recognize how the accomplishments of each individual affects that of the entire school. The way he sees it, whether a person is student or a teacher, a lunch lady or a custodian, his or her success contributes to everyone’s overall success, which is why he believes it is vital for him to provide opportunities for growth and expansion. “My ultimate mission…is to help you be successful, and so I enjoy that the most–I enjoy working with people and providing them the opportunity to shine,” he says.

In order to ensure students are successful, however, he wants them to take advantage of all the available resources at YLHS. “Don’t get discouraged if things don’t go quite as well as you think they should,” he urges. “Keep taking opportunities to be involved, to be connected…Enjoy, smile, laugh a lot, and things will come your way.”

It’s a mantra that he himself followed when he was in high school: one of his extracurriculars included participation in band as a drummer for three years, where some of his “greatest memories came from performing with them.” On a more academic note, he also enjoyed speech class, and majored in Economics and Business in college. Now, as principal, he sets goals and plans for the school’s development into later years. In his off-time, he enjoys going to the Colorado River with his family over the summer.

But emanating through every aspect of the interview is his affinity for Yorba Linda High School and, more specifically, for the students and faculty here. Everything, from his straightforwardly poignant words to his iconic windbreaker, simply reveals his true colors: navy, crimson, and silver.