Last year I was asked by a friend “Why should I send my children to O’Neal?” The person continued, “We will receive a comparable education and can take the same AP courses at the public school. And, we will save a lot of money as well.” My response was quick and honest. “We can’t afford to NOT send our family to O’Neal. O’Neal does not just prepare students for college, it prepares them for life. O’Neal is not just a school. It is an idea. It is a hope. It is an opportunity. O’Neal tuition is not a cost today. It is an investment in tomorrow.” My friend decided to join the O’Neal community. He thanks me every time he sees me as it has made such a positive impact in his family.
There is not a day when on the O’Neal campus that I am not reminded why O’Neal is the right decision for families. I wanted to share an example of “Why O’Neal?” It has nothing to do with AP courses or SAT scores. It has everything to do with what is at the heart of O’Neal: Character.
Recently, O’Neal hosted a cross country meet. It is really impressive to see how the O’Neal campus is converted into a top level, professional 5 kilometer course. Every time O’Neal hosts a meet coaches rave about the course conditions and how well it was run. Two years ago after a meet, an opposing coach told our athletic director, Mr. James Franklin, that he would put any O’Neal-hosted meet on their schedule even though we were not going to be in the same conference the next year. Monday’s event built on the excellence of those previously hosted at O’Neal. The course layout changed for the better. Coach Heather Weeks had prepared and placed support personnel all over the course. Lead, trail and medical personnel were present and active for the benefit of the runners. There was not one overlooked detail. Everything was in place for the runners to perform at the highest level.
The three races were run without any flaw or issue. The only concern came from the last race – the varsity boys race. One runner from an opposing school was still out on the course. It had been almost ten minutes since the rest of the field had finished their race. It came over the coach’s radio that the last runner was still progressing on the course but was struggling. He was not injured. It was just that he was nowhere near the ability level of the other runners. Word spread among the waiting teams that the lone runner was still about a half mile away. By this time, the name Max was being whispered as the name of the runner still plugging along out on the course. There is nothing more discouraging and embarrassing as a runner to know that the entire field is waiting on you so that the race can end and everyone can go home. The idea of everyone staring and judging you as you are coming in could make every step closer to the finish line more and more difficult.
That is when the extraordinary took place. This is when O’Neal distinguished itself as a truly unique place in the world. This is when the O’Neal students demonstrated that they were a part of something greater than self. Motivated solely by the desire to lift the human spirit, four O’Neal runners who had already completed their races and cool down exercises ran back onto the course. They sprinted until they found Max. Max was walking and was defeated. The four O’Neal runners started cheering for Max. They were clapping for him and encouraging him to run. Once he started running they clapped more and set little goals for him: “You are almost there Max. You can do it Max.” The pace was slow but consistent. Max did not stop running - the O’Neal runners wouldn’t let him. Their motivation and encouragement breathed new air into his tired lungs.
At the final turn where other runners were met with the challenge of pushing themselves on the final stretch, Max was greeted by the entire O’Neal cross country team. Every member of O’Neal’s middle school and varsity team ran in with Max. One of Max’s teammates was overheard saying “I feel bad. O’Neal is doing what we should be doing. We should be running with Max. Let’s go join them.” Not only did O’Neal help Max. O’Neal set the example for his teammates and all those in attendance. The O’Neal students demonstrated the importance of character. The O’Neal cross country team celebrated their ability to change the world. There was no “you” versus “us”. There was only “we”. We will finish strong. We will finish together. We will be better as an entire team. Why O’Neal? This picture says it all.
Parents, Past Parents, Teachers, Students, and Alumni are encouraged to send us your stories of why O'Neal has made a difference for you or your family. Email your story to: Director of Communications Kathy Taylor.