Ovella O'Neal, of Camden, New Jersey, kept strict rules in place for her son

By Maria Mercedes Lara
Updated June 20, 2015 06:40 PM

Single mom Ovella O’Neal showed her love for her 18-year-old son Aljelani “AJ” Igwe by renting out a massive sign in their hometown of Camden, New Jersey.

The sign, at Seventh and Cooper street, features a Igwe’s smiling school photo and reads, “A mother can’t raise a man, but I raised a gentleman.”

O’Neal, who created the billboard to celebrate her son’s graduation from LEAP Academy, says she hopes that the sign also serves as a way to inspire other single mothers.

“Lead by example because if I can do it you can too,” O’Neal said of her advice for other mothers during an interview with Philadelphia’s CBS 3 on Wednesday.

As for her rules for Igwe, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Igwe wasn’t allowed to have a cellphone or girlfriends. He also had to be home before dark. The mother also made sure that the family, which includes Igwe’s 4-year-old brother Gabriel, sits down for dinner every night.

The teen kept a strict schedule, waking up at 7 a.m. for school and heading to the Boys and Girls Club of Camden after classes to volunteer. He also served as a guard on LEAP’s basketball team.

Igwe’s accomplishment is something to celebrate in Camden, where 35 percent of adults have no completed high school and less that 8 percent hold bachelor’s degrees, according to CBS 3.

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However, the senior, who will officially graduate next week, is headed to Rowan University where he will study engineering.

And Igwe’s goals include giving back to his mother.

“My mom wanted a BMW so I’m going to try and get her that,” he told the news station. He also added that his goal is to eventually own a house.

As for letting Igwe let loose before heading to college? The mom says the no-cellphone and no-girlfriend rules will apply through summer.