Uniquely O’Neill

Freshman Pema O’Neill lives in a household of six girls; she and her sisters were all adopted.


After decorating the school for Student Government with her friend freshman Alyssa Del Vecchio, freshman Pema O’Neill walks up the driveway and back into her house. She has lived there all her life. When she enters she is greeted with music, resonating from the piano and the cello, as well as singing. Some of her little sisters are laughing in another room and her mother is cooking dinner off in the kitchen.

“There’s never a dull moment,” O’Neill said, laughing. “I like having a lot of people [in my family] because there is always something going on.”

While juggling a schedule of double science classes, three clubs and orchestra, O’Neill is always busy. Every day she practices her cello, which she has played since the fifth grade. O’Neill participates in Chem Club, Student Government and Relay For Life.

Del Vecchio said that she’s “always determined” as well as “happy and quirky.” Her older sister, Margaret O’Neill, described her as a “really big people person.”

Being raised in a house of six girls, O’Neill finds that there are good and bad things that come with being part of such a large family.

“The pros of a large family is you have a lot of people you can relate to and you can talk to,” O’Neill said. “The cons are you have no privacy. There is always someone there that won’t leave you alone. So, I would say that’s a pretty big con, but I love my family and I wouldn’t trade them for anything else.”

O’Neill was welcomed into the family on Mother’s Day in 2003. She was nine months and three weeks old. She was adopted from Chongqing, China. Her father traveled there to bring her home, since her mother was at home with O’Neill’s two older sisters, Margaret and Quinn. O’ Neill hears stories about her adoption and recalls the connection she made with her family.

“[My father] said that I didn’t show a lot of emotion at first but when we were in the hotel room and I was just lying in my crib, I reached out my arm and grabbed his finger,” O’Neill said. “Instantly, there was a connection that I knew he was my father and I was his child.”

Margaret recalls the day that O’Neill came home.

“We were at the airport and I remember being so excited,” Margaret said. “There was a railing and my older sister and I were standing there trying to see.”

All five of O’Neill’s sisters were adopted from China as young children. O’Neill’s two older sisters, Quinn and Margaret, were both adopted from Hubei. She also has three younger sisters. Norah came from Hunan, Lachlan was from Guangdong and Kassidy was from Gansu. Through the years, all the girls celebrate the anniversary of the days that they got adopted. This May will mark O’Neill’s 14th year in America.

“[Celebrating our adoption day] is kind of like a birthday celebration but instead of presents or anything we will be celebrating us,” Margaret said.

O’Neill’s favorite quote is “just because my path is different doesn’t mean I’m lost.”

“I guess I chose that particular quote because I’m not afraid of what’s going to happen next,” O’Neill said. “What I do may seem to be different than what other people think I should do at this time. I tend to steer away from going along with everyone else and what they are doing.”