Ovealla O'Neal is a 45-year-old home health aide for Samaritan Healthcare in Camden, NJ, where 35% of adults never completed high school and less than 8% go on to earn a bachelor's degree. She's also a single mom with five kids. But Ovealla overcame the odds. This spring her son AJ Ingwe graduated from LEAP Academy and enrolled at Rowan University to study engineering. His mom felt he deserved a "shout out," and she created one that thrilled him.
For $725, she rented a billboard in downtown Camden for three weeks. Below the sign, she arranged a street party with a cup cake truck and an ice cream truck. AJ's older sister picked him up from school that day so he wouldn't see the sign riding home on the bus. She told him they needed to meet their Mom at a spot near the billboard. Driving down the street, he wondered, "why are all my friends coming this way?" Then he saw why, and was totally surprised. Ovealla uses the word "good" to describe her 18-year-old. She raised him with strict rules: limited cell phone time, dinner together at home most nights, and no girlfriends. "She just makes sure I'm in school and doing what I need to do to be successful," he told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
His mom explained, "I wanted him to be a gentleman that young women will appreciate. I wanted to raise him different. I always tell my kids, 'When you are different, people treat you differently, and different isn't bad.'"