After-school program, scholarship helps Pine Hills teens to go to college

By Erin Murray, Reporter
Last Updated: Tuesday, May 23, 2017, 11:25 AM EDT

Julien O’Neil and Arry Rendel live in and love Pine Hills.

  • Two troubled teens get their lives turned around thanks to after-school program
  • Teen: Without this scholarship, I probably wouldn’t be going to school'

The pair are getting ready to graduate from Evans High School next Wednesday. And both are accepted into colleges for the coming Fall.

"Congratulations on your acceptance to Morehouse College," said O’Neil, holding the acceptance letter.

College is a dream he has had for a very long time.

"This is where I want to be," he grinned, thinking about Morehouse.

However, college was not always in his plans.

"At one point in time I was a student who was known as an MVP, which is a student who is classified as homeless," said O’Neil. "I lived being homeless, I lived being around drugs, I lived that lifestyle. I knew what that was because it was around me and I said to myself, 'I want to have better.'"

Rendel will be going to Valencia College. And like O’Neil, there was a point in his life he did not think college would be possible to attend or even get into college.

"It’s hard out there, once you go down the wrong path, it’s hard to steer to the right path," said Rendel.

He remembers hanging out with a rough crowd in his younger years. He said they encouraged him not to study, but to live a life of crime. He said during this he had an epiphany.


"That is something that can change your life," said Julien O’Neil when talking about after-school programs. (News 13)

"I keep getting in trouble. I keep getting referrals and my mom be like, 'You are never going to be anything if you keep going down this wrong path. You need to stop hanging out with these people,'" said Rendel.

What turned both around were after school activities like Future Leaders United and the United Foundation of Central Florida.

"That is something that can change your life," said O’Neil when talking about after-school programs.

But Rendel and O’Neil did not realize that after school programs would help them even more, by awarding them scholarships to help pay for college.

"College is not cheap," said Rendel.

The community of Pine Hills and their mentor Sandra Fatmi stepped up to get the money for 14 students.

"Without this I probably wouldn't be going to school," said O’Neil.

"Once I am done, I want to come back and try to support other after-school programs as well," said Rendel.

Both teens will receive their scholarships Saturday with 14 other deserving students from Pine Hills.

The ceremony will be at the Worship Center on Silver Star Road from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.