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Legacy of Learning

Recently featured in the 2018 Special Edition of Catholic Forester for receiving the Fraternal Scholarship, James O’Neill, now a freshman at University of Rochester studying Chemical Engineering, is not the only member of his family to have received this award. In fact, there’s something of a legacy of O’Neills who have received the scholarship, starting with James’s mother Elaine. It helped her earn a bachelor’s degree from Tufts University, where she met her husband John, and then go on to get a master’s degree at Boston University. Elaine was a first-generation college student, and the scholarship helped fill a definite need. “My dad was very ill when I was in high school,” Elaine explained. “As the oldest of four children, [the scholarship] was a big enabler for me and my family, as we had a real need and this scholarship closed a gap for us.”

The scholarship has continued to help the O’Neill family, as the eldest daughter Erin O’Neill received it and graduated from Northeastern University as an Electrical Engineer, now working at GE Aviation and pursuing her master’s degree. Emily O’Neill, a sophomore studying Biology at her parents’ alma mater, also earned the Fraternal Scholarship.

One of the first things Elaine and her husband did when their children were born was to give them a membership with Catholic Order of Foresters (COF). “I knew as a recipient, that in addition to the peace of mind afforded by the insurance policies we held, our children would have access to the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and the scholarship,” Elaine said. She added, “These benefits do help and support our goal of providing them with an excellent education.” They knew that putting five children through Catholic school would be a significant expense, but the TAP award helped ease that expense.

With the help of Catholic Order of Foresters Fraternal Scholarship and Tuition Assistance Program, the O’Neills have more freedom to give their time to volunteering. Elaine leads the church choir that her children participate in, and as a family they volunteer at the local library and other events. One of these events was the Pan Mass Challenge, a bike-a-thon fundraiser for cancer research. As a family, they raised nearly $15,000; John made the ride while Elaine and the kids supported the fundraising effort.

The O’Neills are a family to watch, as they have not only reached educational success, but also now willingly pay it forward by giving back. The Fraternal Scholarship doesn’t grant itself; it is given to students who have shown exemplary work in their education and their community. The O’Neills, four of whom have earned the Fraternal Scholarship, are deeply rooted in service to others and education, using both to improve our world.

Article by Alison Mink.

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