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Meet the Co-Founders

Michelle Jennings-Anderson & Patrick O’Neil Anderson

Michelle Jennings-Anderson


Michelle Jennings-Anderson is the co-founder and executive director of the Jennings O’Neil Career Academy.


Michelle was born in Charleston, SC and raised approximately 30 miles away in Hollywood, SC until the age of 9, when the family relocated to Charlotte, NC.


“This is when my brokenness began: when I was sexually abused by a close relative. It only ended several years later when I became a teen mother at age 13. The students who rode my school bus were labeled as ‘bad kids.’ We were all removed from our home schools and sent to alternative schools. For me, it was a school for pregnant teens. 


“We came from a mix of backgrounds, including those who were victims of physical, emotional or sexual abuse, residents of foster care or group homes, juvenile delinquents or offenders, students with behavioral issues, and pregnant teens. I was the youngest pregnant student and, therefore, had nothing in common with the older girls.


“I have no recollection of any adult inquiring about what was happening in our personal lives that caused us to be placed in an alternative learning setting. We were just ‘bad kids.’


Child trauma survivors often have little space left for learning. Their constant state of tension and arousal can leave them unable to concentrate, pay attention, and retain or recall new information. Too frequently, adults can interpret inappropriate behaviors as flawed personalities rather than an indication of adolescent trauma in the home or living environment.


As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, after more than three decades of working in a corporate environment, Michelle’s role was made redundant in the fall of 2020. A few weeks later, she learned that she had cancer. Today, she is in complete remission and utilizing the skills and extensive experience gained over her years of working with national organizations and programs that support low- to moderate-income communities and youth to re-design the next phase of her life.


“My true passion and purpose have always been to empower others to achieve greatness, and I plan to do this through the re-establishment of our vocational training school on the secondary educational level and by introducing additional career options that will appeal to young adults. My mission and goal are to mentor and educate students in vulnerable communities, particularity those who are aging out of foster care or have experienced any sort of childhood trauma, to include homelessness and sexual abuse survivors. The end goal is to provide youths and young adults with a second-chance opportunity to thrive.


“Although I was incorrectly labeled as a ‘bad kid or a ‘fast little girl,’ I was determined to not let my circumstances define my fate. However, I often wonder about young adults who have had similar painful experiences and did not have a primary or secondary support system to help them navigate through the clutter to achieve their greatness. For this reason, I am an advocate of vocational training  and committed to creating equitable career pathways for all to succeed.

Patrick O’Neil Anderson


Patrick O’Neil Anderson is the co-founder and outcomes director of the Jennings O’Neil Career Academy.


Born in Brooklyn, NY and raised in Pinetops, a town located in Eastern North Carolina, Patrick became a successful entrepreneur in the barber industry. Patrick has been in the barbering business for close to four decades with experience operating government owned barber shops, nail and beauty salons, as well as creation and sales of barbering and grooming products. He also operated the Prestige Barber Styling Institute vocational school for 12 years. It was through the commitment to his barber students that he realized that teaching was his true calling. The adults who learned the trade under his tutelage came from all walks of life, ranging from high school students to adults who relocated to the area following Hurricane Katrina, veterans, adults seeking a change in career, and ex-offenders. Patrick has dedicated his life and business expertise to providing second-chance opportunities to others so that they are prepared to become successful barbers and barber shop owners and managers, making jobs and apprenticeship positions available for others.   


However, he also knew that he would one day need to tell his personal story, including what led him to the barber industry. As a toddler in the early 1970s, Patrick was involved in a terrible house fire and suffered second and third-degree burns. At age 14, Patrick had two great passions: basketball and cutting hair. After realizing that he could make enough money to purchase the latest sneakers and back-to-school clothes by providing all of the fellows in the neighborhood with soup-bowl haircuts, he gave up basketball.

The founders are grateful for the opportunity to be servant leaders. They have had to work hard to rise above their circumstances, and now as adults, it is important to both survivors that they remain true to their passion and purpose to assist others with developing their full potential and empowering them to be their best self by rebuilding self-confidence following devastating, life-altering experiences by providing pathways to opportunities, and in 2020, the Jennings O’Neil Career Academy was established.

Graduation Ceremony

"I believe that all high school students should graduate with a career skill of their choice and be prepared for immediate placement into the workforce.”

Michelle Jennings-Anderson


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