It takes a special kind of person to go back to earn a high school degree several years after attending school, and twenty-five-year-old Shaun Noonan is one. He earned his high school equivalency degree (G.E.D) on April 28, 2023!

The only child of Maryann Noonan, Shaun has lived in South Boston all of his life, and it is in this community where he achieved his goals and looks toward a promising future.

“I went to the Neighborhood House since I was a kid, and then started working there at 15, and that’s where I work now,” he said. “They are the reason I got the degree. They said, you need to do this, and I did. Kathy Lafferty called Julie’s Family Learning and that was the connection I needed. The staff there was amazing. I got the support to take a review course, took the test, and graduated,” he said.

He now is planning on working with computers, possibly robotics, and kids. He seems excited and intent on continuing to work hard. He also loves sports and describes himself as someone always interested in learning and with an ability to self-teach.

“I went to Murphy and then to Boston Collegiate. I had a lot of anxiety that kept me out of school, and lost pace. My grades weren’t too bad, but I wasn’t equipped to handle the expectations. I missed too many days,” he said.

Shaun doesn’t blame anyone and, in fact, is quick to note all of the people who have been helpful to him, and that includes his mother, mentors at the SBNH and Julie’s. In addition, his friends.

“My friend Gannon showed up at my graduation and my girlfriend, Samantha, pushes me.  She was the first one I called when I passed the test,” he said.

“Leaving school took the weight off me, and the job at the neighborhood house allowed me to become a real participant in society,” he said. “I’m dyslectic and it takes me a long time to read. To an extent, I can overcome it, but I tell the kids at the neighborhood house when I read to them that I make mistakes. Maybe it can help them in a way if they have issues,” he said.

Shaun Noonan is articulate, focused, and aware of the joys and sadness life can hold.

Though not easy for a young adult any parent could be proud to know, he is coming to terms with the richness and complexities of adult life.

“I’m learning to get out of my own way, I can be head strong, but now I know I have to do certain things to keep moving. I can keep depression and anxiety at bay, and I love working with kids. I never saw it as a real job but the something clicked, “he said with a characteristic smile and directness.

He views South Boston as his home, and also realizes the paradox of a changing place. Improving in many ways, he wonders about the affordability of the long term, as do most new graduates. “And, parking,” he said in a way that doesn’t need more explanation.

Shaun has a goal to go to France, which would have been his senior trip years ago. “My cousin graduates next year, and I would like to go with her,” he said.

The journey of this graduate may have been challenging, but there are undoubtedly young children at the neighborhood house who look up to him and forward to seeing him. Their natural assessment, along with his team of adult supporters, realize how much he has to offer, and his strong commitment.

“I think my greatest value is loyalty,” he said. My mother worked at one job for twenty years and now the one she has for five. That’s where I get it.  I’ve been at my job for five years,” he said.

Congratulations on your degree, Shaun. Your community is proud.

(If you know of others graduates you would like to see in this column, please contact