College is an opportunity maker for students across the country. Get yourself a college degree and open up the world of employment opportunities, higher income levels and quality of life. But some students have difficulty dedicating themselves to a college career due to financial or educational hardships. How can they commit to a path of higher education? Assistance programs like the Educational Opportunity Program are key to opening up the doors to higher education for these disadvantaged students.
The State University at New York has, for decades, provided financially disadvantaged students with the opportunity to pursue an education via the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP). EOP provides access, academic support, and financial aid to students who have shown potential of succeeding in college but who may not have otherwise been offered an opportunity through regular admissions. This program is one that provides life changing support that cultivates students from less fortunate backgrounds into successful professionals and leaders after graduation.
SUNY receives 30,000 EOP applicants each year for only 2,500 available spots. The support services that EOP provides students range from career, academic, and personal counseling to mentorship and tutoring service, just to name a few. But all students within the program are able to obtain an added push towards access and completion in college.
In order to fully understand the benefits of the EOP program, we can’t just look at statistics. We need to talk to the students who have benefited from this great program. I was recently able to do just that, connecting with some SUNY students who have been given an opportunity to succeed thanks to EOP. Here are some stories from a few students that are nothing but grateful for the opportunity:
Christopher Ferreira is a Senior at the University Albany studying Business Finance.
“During my senior year of high school when it was time to start applying to colleges, I knew that I wanted to attend the University at Albany. It was 3 hours away from my mother, who I love dearly, and I knew it had an amazing School of Business. After attending a program called “Closer Look” hosted by Hank Shufford, the director of admission, I was introduce to the Educational Opportunity program (EOP). After my application submission, I was fortunate enough to be offered admission through this wonderful program.
Throughout my 4 years as an EOP student, I faced adversity many more times but through it all I pushed and made it out of every obstacle with the guidance of my EOP mentors and advisors. The staff at this program was with me every step of the way and that is the number one thing I love about this program. I’m proud to say that I achieved everything I wanted and more at this University. From being admitted into the school of business, to becoming a student leader on campus, and to finally landing a full time job last semester with one of the Big 4 accounting firms. I am a true product of this program and I will forever be grateful for the opportunity I was given by EOP to attend this University.”
Sabrina Vidal attended SUNY Cortland and graduated early this past December with a degree in Communications & Media Production.
“Words cannot express the amount of gratitude I feel for being selected to participate in the Educational Opportunity Program. Being provided support, guidance and access to countless resources has assisted me in putting forth the potential necessary to strive for academic and personal excellence. I am especially thankful, being that I would have been excluded from higher education due to my economic shortcoming. If not for EOP, I would not have experienced college away from home and advanced in the many ways that I have. I dedicate my academic excellence, lifelong relationships built with professionals and peers as well as other opportunities gained to the Educational Opportunity Program and staff. With that said, EOP has paved a path for me as a potential scholar. It has contributed to my ability to aim higher and can be seen in all that I have accomplished. I hope to give back and help benefit others the way it has for me throughout my years in college.”
Jorge Guerrero is a sophomore at SUNY Oswego studying Human Development.
“Applying for colleges was a very stressful time during my high school career. While others worried about which school they will attend and who they attended it with, I worried about how my mother would ever be able to put me through college. I always had dreams of going away for college and becoming the first generation college student in my family. When speaking to my counselor about my situation, she advised me to finish my academic career at home where it would be much cheaper and cost my family less. After refusing to attend college at home she told me to look up the Educational Opportunity Program. The educational opportunity program would soon provide me with the financial and academic support that I needed to strive. EOP has given resources that have allowed me to adapt to a college environment, guided me to focus my studies in a field in which I am passionate about, and has expanded my network by meeting so many professionals and staff members that are always willing to help me. Today I am a sophomore student at the State University of New York at Oswego where I am studying Human Development in hopes of pursuing a career in counseling and one day have the opportunity to give back to EOP for allowing me to pursue a college education.”
As EOP students, these students and myself share similar success stories which we have attributed to EOP’s efforts in developing students into successful role models.
The Educational Opportunity Program has provided me with countless resources and opportunities that I cannot put into words. My experience as an EOP student has been one that has cultivated me into a young professional with the guidance and support I have received from the staff. Coming from a high school in the Bronx, I had hopes of attending college so I can one day pay my mother back for her efforts of working two jobs to maintain our family. The situation I was confronted with was whether or not I would be attending college due to the cost and how my mother would ever mange paying for it. Fortunately, I was introduced to the Educational Opportunity Program where I was offered admission to the University at Albany. Arriving at the university as an EOP student, I was thankful to have a wide range of resources that I can utilize to accomplish my dreams.
Throughout my experience as an EOP student, I have been provided with tutors during busy midterm/finals weeks, received counseling when facing adversity back home, and most importantly I have been given academic and career guidance which reflects the success I have had throughout my college career. Today, I stand as a campus leader, member of several organizations, former Division 1 athlete, and a graduate student, thanks to the life-changing opportunities that I been offered by EOP!
James is a University at Albany graduate student assistant with the Office of New Media at SUNY System Administration.