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10 Years After Hurricane Katrina Changed His Life Steven O’Neil, Jr.’s College Dreams Come True

KNOXVILLE, Tenn., Nov. 3, 2015 – When Hurricane Katrina hit the Southern coastline, many dreams were either dashed or delayed. For Steven O’Neil, Jr., he did not let the devastating storm derail his dreams of furthering his education. Because of devastation in his home state of Louisiana, O’Neil was unable to continue his studies, but in 2014 he received another chance to make his dream come true through King University and WIVK FM’s Degree of Success Scholarship contest.

In Oct. 2014, O’Neil heard of the Degree of Success Scholarship contest and took a chance, submitting his application. Just a month later, he was named the winner of the contest and was headed back to school. He chose to study business at King’s Hardin Valley campus in Knoxville, Tenn., through the University’s Graduate, Professional, and Online Studies (GPS) program. He will receive his Bachelor of Business Administration in April 2016.

“Winning was amazing. I definitely was not expecting to win,” said O’Neil. “It was a bit of a transition, but I love the people and the program. Everyone has been so helpful.”

In 2005, after the hurricane, O’Neil and his family were relocated temporarily by FEMA to Knoxville, Tenn. Then they moved back to Louisiana into temporary FEMA housing while their home was gutted and remodeled due to hurricane damage. In 2011, the family returned once again to Knoxville, Tenn.; this time to help an ailing family member. O’Neil began taking a few classes at Roane State Community College and accepted a position with Food City. “I worked my way up over the past four years from a part-time employee to full-time positions including bakery and deli shift leader.”

After beginning the BBA program at King in 2015, O’Neil was promoted to the category assignment team where he works with product placement at multiple Food City locations. “I have definitely been able to apply what I’m learning at King to my work with Food City.”

For his future plans, O’Neil says he would like to stay with Food City, possibly progressing to a position with their corporate office in Abingdon, Va.

O’Neil says for anyone thinking about going back to school, or dreaming of completing their degree, that they should go for it. “I have learned so much since I have been in the program. [King’s GPS] program is a benefit for anyone working who wants to go back to school. There really isn’t an excuse why you can’t do it. You just need to apply and stay positive. Just believe, because it is possible to go back to school and work full-time.”


King University is a Presbyterian-affiliated, doctoral-level comprehensive university. Founded in 1867 as King College, the University offers more than 90 majors, minors, pre-professional degrees and concentrations in fields such as business, nursing, law, medical and health sciences, pharmacy, education, and humanities. Graduate programs are offered in business administration, education, and nursing. A number of research, off-campus learning opportunities, and travel destinations are also available. King University is a NCAA Division II and a Conference Carolinas member with 25 varsity sports. For more information about King University, visit King University does not discriminate against academically qualified students of any race, color, national or ethnic origin, sex, age, or disability. King University is certified by SCHEV to operate locations in Virginia. For more information on SCHEV certification, contact the King University office at Southwest Virginia Community College, 309 College Road, Richlands, VA 24641.