Spotlight on a Student – Avreeayl “Ave” Womack-O’Neil

Courtesy: Ave Womack-O'Neil
Courtesy: Ave Womack-O’Neil

By Kelly Swanson

I met Avreeayl the first day of our class in Glendale. We have been friends ever since. From my perspective Ave as we call him, is an incredible person with a deep since of family values. The motto “Family first, then everything else” seems to be a creed with Ave. When traveling he calls his wife and his mom. Which reminds me I need to call my mom. I respect that. He is the most grounded person I have ever known. He knows what he wants and he just does it. I had a sense about him as he found out I had applied for a Foreign Service Officer position and had taken the test, but was waiting for the interview. Ave was fascinated and wanted to know everything about the process. Recently, Ave was offered a intern position with the Governors office in Shanghai. He knows that the other route into the State Department is to just walk through the door, which he did. I am proud to call Ave a best friend. He certainly kept me out of trouble on my RBE, and my wife appreciates that too! All joking aside, I see father, a son, and a friend who juggles his family values across the world from Shanghai, China. When he is not teaching basketball at his school, he is working with and hosting other T-bird cohorts who are in town and need some assistance. Ave is a true T-Bird!

I recently talked to Ave and asked him what he was up to and to answer some questions for our curious T-Bird audience.

What are you up to Ave?

I am now the Greater Asia Business Development Director of a small consultant firm that my two good French friends started in West Africa.  I am in charge of the China operations, which includes communicating with the factory and our Chinese counterparts.  We are providing solutions for clean water in West Africa, utilizing cutting edge technology.  As Africa has a tremendous problem with clean water, we are gearing up to offer solutions to these problems.  Our African operation is out of Senegal, and we are in the process of closing deals in several nearby African countries.  We will be looking to go all over Africa and into Southeast Asia in the future. Our long-term plan is not only geared for sustainable business, but also to offer free solutions to residents of the countries we are in.  Everyone should have access to clean drinking water.

Ave, tell us about yourself. (job, family, goals)

I am currently the Dean of Students, Athletics Director, Head of the English Department and IBDP English B teacher at Fudan International School.  I have been at this job for almost 5 years.  Additionally, I am a consultant for a business development company based in West Africa.  My role is to liaise between China and Africa. I am married with 4 Children (Ezekiel – 15, Angelo – 12, Ruth – 8, Kaeko – 3).  We live in Shanghai, China.  My lovely wife Hazel is from Olongapo City, Philippines. My goals are to utilize my global business knowledge amassed from Thunderbird to engage into sustainable and meaningful projects for the betterment of humanity.  Education has given me a lot and if I can help to provide educational opportunities for those that need it, then my life will be complete.

Tell us something we don’t already know about you. (secret stuff, not too secret)

Wow, secrets…I have been involved in entertainment for some time.  Those that know me, know I am too busy to even breathe; however, I do make time every year to a commercial or two.  One of my goals, when I arrived in Shanghai, was to get involved in the film/commercial industry.  Since arriving in Shanghai, I have filmed several commercials and have done modeling as well.  As far as movies, I don’t have time in my schedule although opportunities have come across the table. My middle son and I have done a short film (that we have never seen, although they promised to give us a copy – hahahaha) together.  Also, my middle son, Angelo, booked a major milk commercial that aired all over China.  He and my oldest daughter booked also booked a Chinese clothes commercial and have done other commercials and modeling together. That was a teary moment going on the set with both of them.  They really made me a proud father.  If you are from LA, it is hard not to be involved in entertainment everywhere you go.

What do you hope to gain from Thunderbird besides the best global business education? (New careers, enlightenment, raise, other…) Please describe.

This is hard to verbalize because I am already gaining so much from Thunderbird.  As I go into different business meetings in China, the knowledge that I gained reading or participating in group projects can be applied immediately.  Being a T-Bird is a life-changing experience.  I am already living my dreams right now, and my opportunity to join the T-bird family has been fantastic.  At this moment, I am currently in an upward transition to global business as I am in the middle of another career. Due to my diversity, I am able to do both and even more.  My global experience, in conjunction with my T-bird education has provided me a platform to realize my dreams.

How do you manage the day-to-day routine that is the Thunderbird class?

Every week is an emergency.  I don’t know how else to say it. Due to my daily life, I work seven days a week.  The only way for me to make it through the program is to find holes in my schedule to make it happen.  This could be 2:00 am in the morning or 10 pm at night.  It has to be done, so I have to make it happen.

What hasn’t happened for you yet?

There is a lot in life to be thankful for.  I did not get here by myself.  I try to take life one day at a time and enjoy every moment.   The moment I am waiting for is when I can make a big impact on children in the form of education.  As an educator now, I have to opportunity to help many students here in China live their dreams.  I want to create something that provides opportunities for those that have no opportunities. I came from that system and know how hard it was to get out.  We live in the information age, so I want to give children the information to improve their lives through education.

Has Thunderbird changed your life?

Absolutely!  My vision was open further when I became a T-Bird; however, my Thunderbird education has given me even more confidence to tackle the world.  I feel proud to be a part of this school.  Beyond the curriculum and wonderful teachers, it is my classmates that have really made this program wonderful.  Some may think being in the OD program is just about sitting behind a computer.  I would beg to differ, and have made some life-long friends.  ODXVI is my family and I am happy to be a part of this dynamic group of individuals.

Who is your inspiration?

God and my family.

What support do you have from your family?

My family is wonderful.  I have 4 wonderful children and a fantastic wife.  People always praise me for how hard I work.  I would have to defer to my wife who is the real superstar in our family.  She is my true inspiration as she takes care of us all everyday without complaining not even once.  I feel blessed to have such a wonderful person in my life.

If we were in an airport traveling, how can we spot you in the airport, where would we find you?

T-bird backpack / Shanghai Pudong Airport going and coming…

IPhone or Android?

Which ever my electronics guy has at the time.  This is China! (he had a Android the last time I saw him)

What’s the first song on your playlist right now?

I like to listen to music when I work and study; however, if I have to concentrate, I can’t listen to words with lyrics.  I listen to so many kinds of music.  I really like electronica and experimental.  An artist called “Flying Lotus” is my good friend, so he is in heavy rotation.

Favorite Movie?

Too many…Comedy: Wedding Crashers, Action:  Anything CIA and secret agent liked.  Independent: Pulp Fiction  Horror: Nightmare on Elm Street

Best thing about you?

When you get to really know me, I am an extremely silly person.

Worst thing about you?

Take on too much at one time (somehow, I always pull it off in the end – that’s the problem!)

Did you buy Facebook stock?


Pick one category (Entrepreneur, Worker bee, Adventurer)? Why?

All, life is short, make it happen.

Is your glass: half-full or half empty? Why in one word?


I want to thank Ave for taking time out of his busy schedule. Here is Ave and some photos of his recent Peak shoes commercial, and his family. For you basketball fans that’s Paul George, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Yau Ming at a U.S. Consulate party with Ave. Another On Demand student survey coming soon!

[acx_slideshow name=”ave and friends”]

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