They say behind every great man is an even better woman, and I would have to say that the same is true for mothers and sons.
Because while we all may know the name of Shaquille O'Neal, he owes much of the success in his life to the woman who taught him everything.
After raising her superstar son and three other children, Lucille O'Neal is partnering with the Boys & Girls Club of America and the University of Phoenix, where she furthered her own education late in life, to offer opportunities to inspirational mothers across the country through America's Most Inspirational Mothers Campaign. The mother who raised a great man is now going on to inspire greatness in other mothers and is sharing the passions close to her own heart.
"Back in November, the Boys & Girls Club wanted to initiate a search for the nation's most inspirational mom," explains Lucille. "After going through a number of essays and reading information about candidates, the national search was narrowed down to fifteen finalists, and out of the fifteen, we were able to narrow it down to three that were selected from that group. I’m excited because the University of Phoenix partnered with the Boys & Girls Club and they were able to offer a full-tuition scholarship for these moms."
All of the scholarship recipients were inspirational mothers who worked in their communities and had faced challenges in their own lives, but had still risen above their circumstances and obstacles to better their lives and that of their children. "As moms, we go through one thing or another and we do the best we can to make sure our families are taken care of, and a lot of times, that allows for our dreams to be put on hold," says Lucille. "These moms who have been selected, they have gone through so much, but they have overcome; they are still standing as strong, courageous women."
"I’ve had an association with the Boys & Girls Club for a long, long time," says Lucille. "I used to go with my brother, when it was called the Boys Club. I believe it’s a special place that has inspired so many of our young people and having the opportunity to do something with them, it was rewarding to me. My oldest son has a great partnership with them, and it has a special place in my heart."
Lucille shares how she feels the Boys & Girls Club inspires kids. "I believe that the Boys & Girls Club is a safe haven for our children," Lucille states. "Just like when we have our children in our in school, and we work with our teachers, we should also work with the staff of the Boys & Girls Club. They are caring people and they are there so they can help inspire and help instill other values, just like we do at home. There's a slogan at the Boys & Girls Club that says, 'It's a positive place for kids' and I know that to be true. We are partnering together to make our children and all the other individuals who come through the door, somebody great."
"We have to lead by example," Lucille comments. "We do a lot of parenting... I remember telling my children you have to go to school, you have to get your education. The thing that we tell our children, we need to do that too. If we tell them to walk with their heads up and learn how to have self-discipline and respect themselves, we need to be able to have it too. All that we tell them? We need to show them too."
Lucille practices what she preaches. She went back to school for business later in life and eventually graduated from the University of Phoenix with her Masters of Arts in organizational management. "An opportunity was presented," Lucille explains about her decision to go back to pursue her education. "And my son came to me and he said, 'if you still want to go to school, I will help you.' I’m so excited because when we have our dreams as parents, we put our dreams on hold. I had been out of school for 30 years when I went back."
"I hope they will be able to gain a greater influence, not only for themselves, but to have a greater impact on the world around them," says Lucille. "When we don’t have an education we feel a [little less] worthy, but education brings another great reward to our lives and then we feel we are worthy. I would hope that the women receiving the education, that their dreams are also accomplished too. I tell them it’s never too late to start a new beginning. Education is something you don’t get for anyone else, you get it for yourself."
In the end, whether encouraging a little boy to do his best in the classroom or on the court or offering the chance of a lifetime to mothers who have put their own dreams on hold, Lucille O'Neal will continue to inspire. "We often lose ourselves in the process when we are raising our children," Lucille notes. "And if we wouldn’t wallow in self-pity and just keep moving forward, I think it makes a better day for some of us, because there are going to be challenges not only in motherhood but in life as well. I just want to encourage everyone to keep going forward, keep your head up and continue to be strong.
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