The O'Neal Community

Lt. Col. John Samples
As a parent, you hope that in your absence, your children will always do what is right. That takes on a great many perspectives: They will always be polite. They will always do what they should do vice what they want to do. They will put themselves in a position of success vice a position to struggle. They will always take care of their mother. As our children get older, they have more and more requirements that pull them away from their parental watch. We must rely then, on the training and guidance that we as parents have given them. We are left in a precarious position: hope that we have prepared our children to face the world and all of the obstacles that exist. My, oh my, there are many sleepless hours wondering if we parents have done enough.

Sometimes there are gaps and seams in our parenting. Unfortunately our children inherit our periodic parental missteps. In such times, we pray for a safety net. The safety net, is a community of like-minded adults who will help your children in your absence. More often than not, a community of like-minded adults who will help your children is a wish, if not a fantasy. One only has to watch the news or read a newspaper to know that the community safety net is the exception, and not the rule.

“Why O’Neal?” For any parent that hoped their children would do what is right in their absence, for any parent that hoped they have raised them right, for any parent that wishes and believes in the fantasy of a community: O’Neal is that community. O’Neal is a community of like-minded people who share one undisputable goal: we want our children to change the world by living to their potential. The O’Neal community expects more of each other. The O’Neal community holds each other accountable. The O’Neal community empowers us to reach higher. The O’Neal community is there in your absence.

I am in the Army and was re-assigned to Fort Carson in June of 2018. My wife and I were heart-broken that we would have to uproot our family from O’Neal, especially as our son Bryce was a senior in the Upper School. He had several goals for his senior year: cross country state champion, track and field state champion, and earn an appointment to the United States Coast Guard Academy (USCGA). He had lofty goals and great expectations. As an O’Neal Falcon, I expected nothing less. We recognized that we were going to disrupt his life in an extraordinary way. My wife and I started the normal process of looking at schools and housing at our new duty location. Somewhere in Colorado Springs we both came to the same conclusion: our family could endure my absence, but our family could not endure the absence of O’Neal. We decided to keep our two children at O’Neal and we would “make it work”.   A few days after reporting to my new unit, I was informed I was deploying to Afghanistan for nine months. We were really going to be challenged on making it work from half a world away.

“Why O’Neal?” There was not a week that went by that I did not receive a letter or e-mail from someone from the O’Neal community. I loved my Falcon family’s well-wishes, thoughts and prayers. What was most important to me was the constant reminder that they were looking out for my wife and children. I had plenty to worry about in Afghanistan. It meant the world to me that they were trying to relieve me of that bit of stress. That said, I still had natural concerns about Bryce during the most important year of his young life. Whenever I asked, he would say “I’ve got this” or “I’m on it”. As much as I wanted to dig into that to ensure he was not just providing me with a “hand wave” dismissal, I wanted to give him ownership of his future.

All the while, accolades mounted: All-state in cross country, state champion in track, continuous improvement on the SAT, and character awards from O’Neal. The one thing that he still seemed concerned about was earning an appointment to the USCGA. He would write to me about the countless people who helped with his application. He would tell me on phone calls about the people who were working “what if” plans with him. He even explained to me about someone who coordinated a phone call with an admissions officer at the USCGA to explore next steps if he did not earn an appointment. He continued to say I am working with someone. He said there are really a lot of “someones” but there is one in particular that was helping him out. Through all of this, I just knew that he was as calm as he could be. As a result, his senior year was a time of joy and not stress. As a result, my wife was calm and happy. As a result, I could focus on the task at hand.

On March 21st of this year I received an e-mail where it all became clear. In the e-mail was a picture and the simple statement, “Dad, we did it.” He received his appointment. By “we” I know he meant our entire O’Neal family. I wanted to be there when he received his appointment but couldn’t be. My safety net was there. The O’Neal community was there for our family every step of the way. Bryce wanted to send me a picture of “the someone” that made it all possible. The O’Neal Athletic Director, James Franklin, stepped in when he didn’t have to. He asked Bryce about his classes. He worked with him on his application. He facilitated a call with the admissions officer. He was there to dust Bryce up when he needed tough love and to hug him when his dad’s arms were too far away. I will never be able to thank James enough, but he will always tell you, “That is what we do at O’Neal”. And that is precisely “Why O’Neal?”

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.
Serving Pinehurst, Southern Pines, Whispering Pines, Sanford, West End, Aberdeen, and areas surrounding Moore County, NC.

The O’Neal School
3300 Airport Road
Southern Pines, NC 28387

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The O'Neal School admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.