EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

May 19, 2013

Student overcomes hurdles to graduate from UMass Lowell

Even a year ago, Christina O’Neill didn’t think she would make it this far.

On the verge of being kicked out of college last spring following the death of close friend Kelsey Richardson, O’Neill graduated yesterday from the University of Massachusetts Lowell with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and management prospects at Bank of America.

“I needed to graduate for Kelsey,” O’Neill, 25, of North Andover. “I needed to graduate for myself.”

She was one of 3,169 students to receive degrees from the school yesterday. Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis, a Lowell native who led the police department there for 12 years, delivered the commencement address.

“Every single day for the rest of your life is going to provide a learning opportunity for you,” Davis told the Class of 2013, who come from Massachusetts and 44 other states. “I’m here to tell you that virtually every decision I made from the moment I first learned about the explosions [at the Boston Marathon] was based on the totality of my learned life experiences that have spanned the more than three decades since I graduated with my first college degree.”

O’Neill was also born in Lowell, but her family moved to North Andover around her first birthday. Her father, who worked at Lucent Technologies, had health problems during her years at North Andover High School, and eventually required surgery.

Her first year of college, at Assumption College in Worcester, was rocky and O’Neill said she never settled in there, even though her sister went to nearby Worcester Polytechnic Institute and her mother encouraged her to stick it out. “I got the feeling I didn’t fit there, with everything that was going on with my dad,” she said.

“I’m very much a daddy’s girl,” she added.

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