O’Neal receives E. E. Ford Grant

The O’Neal School is one of 12 independent schools around the world that has been awarded the prestigious Edward E. Ford Traditional Grant. The grant will be used to expand O’Neal’s current research programs and resources to impact even more students and faculty members on campus and in the wider Sandhills community.  The award is $100,000 and requires a matching component of at least one-to-one.

“The E.E. Ford Foundation’s mission is to improve independent schools and encourage promising practices,” states Head of School John Elmore. “I am proud that O’Neal is developing programs of significance for our community and that our School is being recognized internationally with this notable award.”

The Signature Scholars Research Program (SSRP), launched in the 2022-2023 school year, has now produced five Signature Scholars. Students are chosen from a selective, highly motivated pool of candidates who demonstrate both academic strength and intrinsic curiosity about the world and their place in it. They complete a two-year inquiry-based course of study in the 11th and 12th grades that culminates in a 10,000-word paper and a public symposium where each student’s research is presented.

The success of the SSRP has been immense. The ability to gain research skills and find satisfaction in developing a level of expertise in an area of scholarly interest for the greater population of O’Neal’s students has become a strong objective for the school. O’Neal sought to apply for the E.E. Ford Grant to further expand this opportunity.

“Former SSRP students have continued research and presentation practices at the college level, crediting their experience in O’Neal’s program with helping them develop the poised and confident ethos of a scholar,” says SSRP Director Dr. Nicole Camastra.  “Current SSRP students enjoy being part of a community of scholars that works together to support and encourage each other as they discover a research focus, their personal responses to it, and how that knowledge benefits a larger group of people. At its core, SSRP offers the invaluable opportunity to articulate and nurture a sense of awe about a given subject.”

The grant will be used to create a research hub in McMurray Library, equipped with the databases, texts, and materials necessary to support the research needs of students. Faculty research stipends will provide the opportunity for teachers to explore areas of academic interest and expand the overall goal of the current research program in place in every department. An annual speaker series will bring researchers to campus to share both their fields and the research process, and one presentation will be the keynote for the public SSRP Symposium.

More importantly, O’Neal intends to share its resources and research expertise with students and teachers in the Sandhills. O’Neal faculty members will offer Teacher Research Institutes to share their knowledge and experience with teachers from the local communities. By utilizing O’Neal’s research hub and collaborating with faculty, the institutes will invite local teachers to explore research techniques and projects. This partnership will allow access, growth, and support for individual teachers to take research methodologies back to their students in the local schools. The Student Research Institutes will allow O’Neal and local students to explore individual areas of academic interest using the research hub and produce a significant paper or portfolio under the guidance of O’Neal faculty members.

As the grant requires at least a 1:1 match, the O’Neal Development Office will be inviting philanthropic support over the next year. Corporate and individual donations will be an integral component in meeting the terms of the grant to strengthen and enhance the program. During the 2023 Annual Benefit Auction, Fund-A-Need (FAN) donations were designated to elevate the McMurray Library into a Research and Technology Hub for the entire community. Through the incredible generosity of many FAN donors, over $123,000 was contributed to add innovative technology, vastly improve research databases and make physical improvements to the space, including a dedicated collaborative research room. 

“The O’Neal community is incredibly grateful to the EE Ford Foundation for their support of this program as well as for the ongoing generosity of current and alumni families, local businesses, and friends of the school”, states Director of Development Kirsten Dean.

Edward E. Ford was the son of A. Ward Ford who founded and developed a manufacturing business in Binghamton, NY which became a part of International Business Machines (IBM).  Edward E. Ford served IBM in many different capacities, ultimately becoming a member of the IBM Board of Directors where he served until his death. Mr. Ford established The Edward E. Ford Foundation in 1957 with the objective of improving the quality of secondary education in independent schools.

In addition to the Traditional Grant, the Foundation also offers Educational Leadership Grants and occasionally Collaborative Innovation Grants. Since its inception, its Board has awarded approximately 1,000 different schools and associations with 2,300 grants totaling $133,000,000. To learn more visit www.eeford.org.

By way of its accreditation with the Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS), O’Neal is one of 1651 members of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). Its NAIS membership qualified O’Neal to complete the application process for the E. E. Ford Grant.

Photo/Sandhills Sentinel.


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