February: DeQuan O'Neal
DeQuan O'Neal is an 18-year-old community activist from Detroit, Michigan who helped organize a press conference at City Hall in December 2011 to kick off the 2012 Hugs Not Bullets Campaign, discouraging celebratory gunfire on New Year's Eve and preventing gun violence throughout the year. Since then, he has worked tirelessly to encourage teen boys of color in his community to stay away from violence by steering them toward positive influences.
In pursuit of that mission, O'Neal has launched several programs that focus on the betterment of Detroit's male youth. In March 2013, O'Neal helped coordinate the Male Empowerment Breakfast that featured adult male role models who shared helpful insights on life, career and manhood with Osborn University Academy high school students. He also recently helped launch the Grads Not Inmates campaign at Osborn which introduces young people to educational opportunities, while urging them to avoid situations that lead to incarceration. The campaign has helped many of his peers secure summer employment thanks to partnerships with the Detroit Violence Prevention Steering Committee and other community organizations with similar goals.
O'Neal was recently appointed as a youth advisory board member for the Police Chief of Detroit and currently sits on the advisory board of the Neighborhood Service Organization's Youth Initiatives Project (YIP), which provides youth leadership and advocacy training focused on gun violence and substance abuse prevention. He is also a graduate of YIP's Leadership Institute. In early 2012, O'Neal was recognized by the White House as a "Champion of Change" for his work to prevent youth violence within his community.
A senior at Osborn Evergreen Academy in Detroit, O'Neal will graduate from high school in June of this year and plans to attend college in the Fall.
Check out our exclusive interview with DeQuan here!