It is often said that many hands make light work. That is certainly the case on Friday afternoons when some 200 students enrolled in the University at Albany’s Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) fan out to a half dozen community-based organizations to recondition used children’s books, organize a yard sale, distribute posters to promote a neighborhood celebration and assist with a charter school summer camp program.
With funding from the New York State legislature, EOP makes a SUNY education possible for academically underprepared and economically disadvantaged New Yorkers. The program places a high value on giving back to the community. Applied learning through volunteerism is at the heart of the University at Albany’s five-week long pre-college summer program which seeks to strengthen students’ academic and life skills. Participation in meaningful activities provides students with real life experiences that enhance their learning and facilitate social mobility beyond the classroom.
This summer, students in UAlbany’s EOP program have spent time working with The Red Bookshelf, The Dream Club Inc., and AVillage Inc. throughout the city of Albany.
“It’s important to interact with the community. Simple tasks such as cleaning used books can make a huge difference,” said EOP student Briana Taylor from Queens. “Every child deserves a book to read.” These EOP students are helping make that happen.
The RED Bookshelf distributes 3,000 books a month to community centers, pediatric offices and housing authority complexes for children to take home with them. With dozens of locations spread throughout the Albany city line, reading materials are putting themselves within reach for the youth of the city.
At The Dream Club, Inc., EOP student Chyna Brown of Brooklyn helped unpack donations for a yard sale to raise funds for an after-school program for disadvantaged youth. “It’s important to walk in each other’s footsteps,” said Brown. “It helps develop you as a person.”
Willie White runs AVillage…,Inc., a grassroots organization that reclaims vacant city lots, operates a farmer’s market and advocates for resources for the residents in the Albany’s South End. White called the EOP student volunteers “a blessing.” He said his program would have a difficult time functioning without their help.
All of these volunteer experiences bring a different type of education to the EOP students at UAlbany. Combined with the quality classroom learning, they all go to show us how the Educational Opportunity Program develops deserving students into the fully educated adult leaders of tomorrow.
Big Ideas is the Blog of The State University of New York, published by the Office of New Media.