Q&A With February HALO Effect Honoree: DeQuan O'Neal
TeenNick fans, it's time to keep the HALO spirit alive!
Since announcing our year-long initiative to spread the HALO Effect, we've received many nominations recognizing teens who inspire to Help And Lead Others through service. The HALO Effect is all about celebrating young people who do good, and we're so excited to congratulate our February HALO Effect honoree, a true champion of change, DeQuan O'Neal!
DeQuan is a high school senior from Detroit, Michigan, who has devoted himself to several organizations that directly and positively impact his community. He is an advisory board member of the Neighborhood Service Organization's Youth Initiatives Project, a representative of the anti-violence "Hugs Not Bullets" Campaign, and a founding member of the "Grads Not Inmates" Campaign at his own school.
A truly driven and compassionate young man, DeQuan gave us exclusive insight into his work aimed at suppressing violence, promoting education, and empowering at-risk youth. Read his full bio here, and check out our exclusive Q&A below!
Congratulations on your HALO Awards recognition! What inspired you to get involved in the Neighborhood Service Organization's Youth Initiatives Project?
My mother and teacher, Mr. Miller, inspired me to get involved in the Neighborhood Service Organization Youth Initiatives Project. Mr. Miller made a promise to my mother. He promised my mother he was going to give me the guidance to become a man.
Gun violence is an extremely pressing issue in our society, and as a youth advocate you bring a very important point of view. Tell us a little bit about your involvement with the 2012 "Hugs Not Bullets" Campaign.
In 2012, I hosted the 8th Annual "Hugs Not Bullets" Press Conference. I encouraged my community to put the guns down and celebrate the New Year [a night typically fraught with violence] with a hug.
"Grads Not Inmates" is a wonderful campaign you helped launch at your high school to help promote educational opportunities for youth, while staying away from situations that might cause incarceration. What has been your most proud achievement with this initiative?
My most proud achievement with "Grads Not Inmates" was our Empowerment Breakfast. The breakfast was the first time some young men in my community ate and had a positive conversation with [other] grown men. Also, young men had the opportunity [to find] employment. Ninety-five percent of those men who attended gained employment for the summer.
Since you've already been accepted to college, do you plan to continue your efforts while you pursue your degree? Have you thought about a major?
Yes, I will continue my efforts of advocating for my community while I pursue my degree. I will never stop advocating for change. I plan on double majoring in Marketing and Social Science.
You were recently appointed an Advisory Board Member for the Chief of Police Department of Detroit. As the only youth member currently on the Board, what does your involvement entail?
As the only youth member on the Advisory Board for the Chief of Police of Detroit Police Department, my involvement is the same as all the other members. I just bring a youth perspective to the table.
What advice would you give to kids who want to make a change, but worry their voice won't be heard?
Advice I would give to youth who want to make a change: "Youth hold the keys to any revolution".
Through your work and dedication, what long term effects do you hope to see within your community?
I hope to unite people within my community, and I hope to see everyone working together: One cause, one purpose, one movement.
Do you know any truly inspiring teens who are making an impact like DeQuan? Nominate them here!