Community Spirit--Michael O'Neal

Michael O'Neal
Michael O'Neal
On-the-job training is the way most people learn to cope with one of the most important jobs there is. We found out how one man's dream is helping many people become better parents. His name is Michael O'Neal, and three years ago, he started the Parent University, a program that does just what the name says, helps parents become better parents.

O'Neal says he started the Parent University out of frustration with the board of education.

"Parents decided before we could blame someone, else we needed to get ourselves in order," he says.

Parent University is a nonprofit community collaborative where parents teach other parents. There are classes in just about everything from computers to helping children with homework. There are 27 different classes offered each session. O'Neal believes when parents understand how the school system works and get involved in their children's education, their children stand a better chance of succeeding.

"I hope parents take information they learn here and turn it into action in their lives, because it's more than academics," O'Neal says. "It's transformation of parents from regular citizens to very dynamic leaders in our community."

And the parents are grateful. Many are already seeing the difference O'Neal is making.

"In one word he's a motivator," says parent Ken Croslen. "He embodies what Parent University is all about, the concerns about the children and the community."

O'Neal hopes to expand Parent University. In spite of all of his hard, work and the success of the program, O'Neal isn't looking for the praise. He just wants people to know.

"I was a parent who tried to look at the challenges in his life and lighten those challenges for others, and Parent University was our method," he says.

That's how he captures the WTOC Community Spirit.

When Parent University started three years ago, many thought it wouldn't last. They said parents didn't care enough to attend. They were wrong: last year 137 parents graduated from the program.

Questions or comments concerning this story should be directed to Dawn Baker