Not everyone is given the luxury of a perfect childhood. Take Eugene T. O’Neal as an example. When he was growing up, all odds seemed to be against him.
“The only way to beat the monster is to become the monster,” O’Neal said with a look of reminiscence as he related back to his poverty ridden youth in the Bronx.
Life for O’Neal has been a constant fight in some way, whether it was mental, verbal, or physical.
“On an evening after the movies I [was] walking home and two guys approached me asking for my sidekick and wallet,” O’Neal said. “It humored me the way they tried to jump me, not knowing that I have been fighting all my life. They didn’t get anything except for bruises.”
Despite the violence and the negative influences that surrounded him, O’Neal has emerged today as an educated man who can give back to his community and be a leader for those who lack one.
Like many other college students, the current junior was not planning on attending college. The decision was in a sense forced upon him by his high school guidance counselor, who told him to apply.
In doing so, O’Neal opened wide a door of opportunity for himself that begins with a solid education.
“A good leader emerges from a good follower,” O’Neal said in reference to his various roles as a leader. At St. John’s O’Neal has been a guide as an Orientation Leader. In this role, he served as a friend to many new people at St. John’s and helped them figure out their own best route to success.
O’Neal also works at Jumpstart, a program for children ages 1 to 5 in low-income families. He serves as a leader in this setting by giving these children the educational foundation that they need to succeed despite the second-rate schools that may be in their neighborhoods.
As a friend, O’Neal also takes on the role of a leader. He said that he is interested in “influencing other people,” something many of us seem to have ceased caring about in today’s self centered society.
“Growing up in the hood, I would regularly witness police brutality and crime in the making,” O’Neal said.
From these experiences stemmed his desire to work in federal law enforcement, a career where he would be able to come full circle and do things right.
“People only criticize those who do things right, but they rarely say anything to those who do things wrong,” O’Neal said.
The St. John’s student plans to graduate with a bachelors degree in Sociology with a minor in Criminal Justice. He also plans to obtain a masters in Criminology and a Ph.D. in Sociology.
With a job, a number of classes, and extracurricular activities including being the vice president of the Student Programming board, one could wonder how O’Neal has the time to get everything done.
“I have many people who keep me on my toes, and [I have] a daily plan book,” said O’Neal with a look of wonder on his face.
“The person I most admire, I would have to say is myself,” O’Neal said when he was asked whom he looked up to. “My parents have played a large role in my life, but there are just certain things I went through all on my own.”
Something that O’Neal has come to see so far in life is, as he said, “Every thing happens for a reason, even if you don’t think it does; everything happens for a reason.”