Federal Way teen, 16, adapts to college life

Federal Way resident Eleanore O’Neil, 16, attends Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Massachusetts. - Courtesy photo
Federal Way resident Eleanore O’Neil, 16, attends Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Massachusetts.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Former Federal Way Public Academy student Eleanore O’Neil has a bit more on her plate these days.

O’Neil attends Bard College at Simon’s Rock (BCSR), a fully accredited four year university specifically designed for young students who want the challenges and pitfalls of college at an earlier age.

At 16, O’Neil is already a year through her college education. She is now attempting to figure out what she wants to do with her future. Like many college students, answering that question is proving to be difficult.

In email correspondence, O’Neil wrote she’s “not positive at all about what I want to major in. I have always been fascinated with science, and so I’m very interested in pre-med or pre-vet.”

O’Neil is open to exposure to new fields and ideas. One that has piqued her interest at BCSR is sociology.

“I’ve really begun to love sociology,” she wrote, “which I think is another road that I could take.”

A study she recently encountered, which showed the positive correlation between wealth and access to better health care, has led Eleanore to want to help those less fortunate.

She hopes to take her medical training, either medical or veterinary, and work in low-cost clinics.

Another big obstacle many first- and second-year college students overcome is homesickness. For O’Neil, who made the trip of nearly 2,500 miles from Federal Way to Great Barrington, Mass., adjusting to the distance from home took some time.

“Moving away from home was extremely hard. I have an incredibly supportive family. My parents were with me 100 percent of the way, and traveled with me to tour the school before deciding to attend. My siblings have been there to help and talk with me if I need it, which is something that has made leaving home a lot easier,” she wrote.

O’Neil mentioned that BCSR is aware of the hardships their students face, and indicated the school has a strong advisor program to help students adjust to their new lives in Massachusetts.

For O’Neil’s family, parents Dennis and Susan, and siblings Stefan, Lisabeth and Iver, having the youngest of the O’Neils 2,500 miles away is just as big of an adjustment.

“We were very concerned and more than a little afraid,” wrote Dennis O’Neil in a separate email conversation. “As her parents, we felt that if anyone could do it, it would be hindsight, Susan and I are very pleased that we allowed her to take the leap.”

As she takes on the challenge of a lifetime, Eleanore feels her stint at Federal Way Public Academy helped set her feet on the path to Massachusetts. A fellow student told her of BCSR while there, and the staff helped her prepare.

“FWPA is filled with great teachers, and I’d have to say that almost all of them inspired me. The principal, Kurt Lauer, is insanely supportive and continually checks up on all of the students. My English, debate and history teacher, Barry Linn, really taught me to think on my own and helped me mature a lot,” she wrote. “As for my science teacher, Dave McNeil...he made science fun for me, which is where I’d like to go into the future.”


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