ONE STUDENT AT A TIME WITH AMANDA O’NAN
Question. What project or accomplishment is the most significant in your career?
Answer. Each day a student finds success is really the best feeling. Every now and again, I have students who are homeless, who face horrible tragedies, and who often are labeled as failures long before they become teens. To watch those students walk across the stage and to have goals for their lives … it doesn’t get any better. But if I had to name accolades that impacted the school community the most, I would have to say winning Palmetto’s Finest, being named by a top school in the country by The Washington Post, and winning top ratings on the school report card. Our school is truly one of the finest.
Q. Tell me about a recent problem that you and your school have solved.
A. Our graduation rate is one of the biggest hurdles we have focused on as a school. Eleven years ago, we were named as a “drop-out factory,” with a graduation rate of about 60 percent. This last graduating class had a graduation rate of just over 90 percent. It was the work of our guidance counselors, expectations team, teachers, parental support and administration that made the difference.
Q. What advice would you give to young women?
A. My advice for any young person is to always strive to be the best without ever losing sight of your faith, values and passion. And, like I tell my own children, always be the voice for those who don’t speak up and stand up for those who are weak. Strive to make the world a better place.
Q. How do you achieve work-life balance?
A. “Family first” is my motto, and I live it. I expect the faculty and staff to do so as well. If we take care of our own, we can then take care of the children in our halls and classes. I take my own children everywhere I can for all my evening commitments because they need to see what I do. But at the same time, doing so allows our students to see positive interaction between my own children and myself. I also have an awesome mom who helps me tremendously.
Q. How did you get where you are today, and who/what helped you along the way?
A. As a little girl, my parents ingrained and modeled work ethic and drive. There were no excuses, and very little tolerance for second best. I try to learn from every person I encounter. I am where I am today due to an awesome faculty and staff who can move mountains and a student body that is amazing.
Q. What is one significant obstacle that you’ve overcome in your life?
A. Naturally, just like many people, I have faced obstacles — but they are opportunities for growth. My father was shot in the line of duty as a police officer and eventually he died as a result of those injuries. That was the hardest time of my life. But it allowed me to be a stronger person.
Q. What have you learned about leadership, entrepreneurship and mentoring others?
A. Leadership is the key to change. A great leader can change an entire system. And I think natural leaders find opportunities in others to groom them.
Q. How long have you lived in the Lowcountry?
A. I have lived on Hilton Head since 2002; I was born and raised in Kentucky. I can’t imagine raising my own kids anywhere else.
70 Wiborn Road, Hilton Head Island