By: Serena Crawford
Ovella O’Neal from Camden, NJ wanted to find a way to express just how proud of her son she was. He was graduating from high school. She thought of the perfect gesture to show him and everyone else just what this day meant to her. O’Neal brought her son, Aljelani Igwe, out to see what his graduation surprise was. He was stunned to say the least. Looking up high on the side of a building was an 18 foot billboard. It had Igwe’s senior photo on it with a special message from his mother that said, “A mother can’t raise a man, but I raised a gentleman. We have the total package. Love, Your Family. Congratulations 2015!”
O’Neal felt this overwhelming sense of pride when her son graduated because of the odds that he overcame. Camden is not a safe city. The city had the highest crime rate in America in 2013 according to the CQ Press 2013 Crime Rate Rankings. Camden also has a high dropout rate. The South Jersey Times reported that in 2014 two out of every five students would not graduate high school. Igwe’s mother knew that she wanted her son to succeed and so she started by enrolling him in the Leap Academy Charter School as opposed to a public school.
O’Neal also sets very strict rules in her home to ensure that all of her children do well. She wouldn’t let Igwe have a girlfriend and kept his cell phone time to a minimum. She wanted all of his focus to be on his education. It worked and he excelled in school. Igwe will be attending Rowan University in Glassboro, NJ in the fall. He will be majoring in engineering. He hopes that one day he can give his mother a BMW for all of the support and love that she gave him. He said that her drive to keep him on track with his education was the biggest gift she ever could have gotten him. He hopes to return the favor one day after he is done with college and has a great career.