Adrienne O’Neill

former President
Stark Education Partnership
Purpose Prize Fellow 2008

Raising high school graduation and college admission rates with a community compact.

A retired college president and former educational leader of the Canton City School district, Dr. Adrienne O’Neill no longer manages multi-million dollar budgets or focuses her efforts on one institution. Instead she has forged a community network to nurture students from preschool through college, raising high school graduation rates and access to college for the “rust belt” youth of Stark County, Ohio. O’Neill recognized that the education gap could not be closed by one single institution or leader but required collaborative leadership networks. In 2002, she helped to institute Ohio’s first “P-16 compact,” a seamless preschool-college education system. School districts, colleges, businesses, foundations and human service organizations have joined together to work toward graduating all high school students and for 80 percent of those graduates to enroll in post-secondary education. O’Neill’s work affects the 5,000 high school students who graduate from Stark County high schools each year and the 42,000 adults in Stark County who haven’t completed college. Since the compact began, 15 of the county’s 17 school districts have exceeded the statewide standard of 90 percent graduation, and dual high school-college credit has expanded to virtually all the districts, with a total enrollment of 62,000. A state-wide P-16 model has been created to bring the project to scale. “I will continue to work as long as I am able because the encore work I am doing is exciting and makes a difference in the lives of others.”