A Parent Investigating in His Children's Future

Written by Fernanda Amado

Gregory O’Connell is someone who draws people to him.  He has an easy laugh, radiates a genuineness, and has a sense of humor that, along with his warm smile, makes people feel comfortable around him.

We got to know Greg because he graduated from Getting Ahead on December 15th, 2014 from the class at La Salle Elementary School along with his fiancé, Savannah Holderman. These classes are a new partnership with School City of Mishawaka for parents of children in elementary schools to gain new perspectives and skills for building financial stablity and increasing parent engagement. Since his graduation he has been working to support his family of three while implementing the lessons he learned in the class.

Greg admits he was at first uncertain about the Getting Ahead program, “I joined [Getting Ahead] because my fiancé wanted me to and then after we started going it turned out to be a pretty good class. I was thankful I took the class more than anything; even though she suckered me into it,” Greg says laughing. Through his experiences in the program,Greg learned not only about poverty but how to how to get ahead of the sticky situations that life hands you.  

When asked what his favorite part of the program he responded, “I liked learning about the hidden rules, and making the mental models. It was very hands-on and that was my favorite part. I have a hard time sitting still and listening for long periods of time, so it kept me focused.”

When he is not working at Giannetto’s Pizza,Greg spends all of his free time with his fiancé and children. While he enjoys Giannetto’s, he dreams of getting his High School Equivelency (HSE) and following in his father’s footsteps as a sound technician. “I would love to get into running sound. My father runs sound and that’s one of things I’ve always wanted to do, to be that guy that sets up for concerts and music events. I went to a lot of gigs with my father, and I got to meet a lot of interesting peopleBut there is a lot of technical work that goes with it, so it would be nice if I could go to college and learn those techniques.”

At the  Mishawaka graduation, Dan Towner, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, remembered having Greg at Emmons Elementary when he was a principal there. He said, “Greg has a very positive and pleasant personality coupled with a great sense of humor.  He always gave a great effort as an elementary student at Emmons School and his teachers and I really enjoyed working with him. I am very proud of Greg for his completion of the Getting Ahead program and he did it with perfect attendance!"

When asked what advice he would give to future Getting Ahead participants,Greg said, “I would tell them to spend their money wisely. Get a better house for your family. Try to support them. Instead of hustling on the streets; get a job and make innocent income. Think before you spend because you’ll keep a lot more in your pocket.”

In 2015, Greg wants to take our Bridges Financial Management class and participate in our Monthly Networking Meetings to stay focused on his goals. We look forward to partnering with him, learning together, and hearing more of his laughter.