Tremendous 12 – Keelin O’Neil

Meredith Gallagher

Feeding her caffeine addiction, trying new foods, and reading a good book are just a few of the things Keelin O’Neil spends her free time doing. Along with a passion for traveling, a love of new experiences, and a dedication to helping others, the Benilde-St. Margaret’s senior has a busy schedule.

One of O’Neil’s biggest commitments is volunteering for Special Olympics Minnesota (SOMN), an organization that puts on events for intellectually disabled adults and children. “I have been volunteering [there] since I was two. I started off handing out ribbons and medals,” she said, “and now I get to be in charge, sort of.”

Along with working on many of the sporting events, including bowling, poly-hockey, gymnastics, and basketball, O’Neil is also a counselor at the SOMN summer sports camp. “Every year I come back with a billion more friends and five extra boyfriends,” she said.

For O’Neil, SOMN is a family affair. “My mom’s brother died at 22, and he wanted to work with developmentally disabled people,” she said, “so it’s like in homage to him. I’ve grown up doing it, so it’s just a part of my life.”

As well as Special Olympics, O’Neil has also found time to do other volunteering, play Varsity and club volleyball, and work part-time. Since junior year, she spends anywhere from two to five days a week at an apartment building in Golden Valley for anyone 55 and older. “I serve in the valley room there,” she said, “well serve, host, bus, and on occasion cook. I do a myriad of things.”

Though O’Neil’s favorite pastimes is to simply sit at home with a good book or movie and coffee, her passion is traveling. “I love traveling!” she said. “I really like experiencing new cultures and trying new things.” Among other places, she has been to Ghana, Guatemala, Vancouver, and this summer, she has plans to go to Alaska.

As for her other future plans, O’Neil will be attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison next fall where she is enrolled in the College of Letters and Science. “Not super exciting,” she said, “it really boiled down to money and how much college was going to cost.”

While there, O’Neil hopes to get a major in biophysics and possibly Spanish as well. “I want to go pre-med and become a doctor,” she said, “I’m really excited to be a nerd.” But for now, she is still leaving her options open. “Maybe I’ll end up going a completely different route and get an art history degree…or maybe urban studies.”

For O’Neil, the most difficult adjustment next fall will be the food. “I don’t know what I’m going to do with dorm food,” she said. “Good food, I’ll miss it.”