Star-themed trophies

‘Stars’ to Shine at Annual EOP Honors Convocation

Hundreds of students will receive the “red carpet” treatment during the annual EOP Honors Convocation at 3:30 p.m. today in the Performing Arts Center at Rockwell Hall. The event’s red carpet décor and theme—“Imagine, Believe, Achieve: Taking Success to New Heights”—is fitting, as students are given every opportunity to shine at Buffalo State.

Currently, 861 students belong to the Arthur O. Eve Educational Opportunity Program, an undergraduate college admissions and support program for students facing economic and academic challenges. Most not only overcome the odds; they eclipse them: 411 students will be recognized for having attained a 3.0 or higher grade point average during one or both semesters during spring and fall of 2007, or a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher. EOP academic adviser Jude Jayatilleke and interim associate director Lily Bink, co-coordinators of the convocation, said this year marks the highest number of EOP honors students in the program’s 41-year history.

According to Yanick Jenkins, director of EOP, the name Honors Convocation is a bit of a misnomer.

“The event is much more than an academic achievement ceremony,” she said. “We also honor outstanding community service, award scholarships, recognize campus achievements, and celebrate all who are part of and support the program.”

Before the celebration begins, students will literally walk across a red carpet upon entering the auditorium and be interviewed, much like celebrities during award shows.

In addition, EOP alumni are invited to an after-event reception to kick off the second annual EOP Alumni Weekend. Networking events and campus tours will take place tomorrow, and a dinner gathering at the Niagara Falls Holiday Inn is planned for Saturday.

At its core, EOP is an admissions and academic support program. Established in 1967 by former New York State Assemblyman and Deputy Speaker Arthur O. Eve, the program was the first of its kind in the SUNY system. Today, students benefit from such EOP services as an extended summer orientation, one-on-one counseling, free tutoring, computer labs, and modest financial support in some cases.

“We see the potential for students to succeed,” said Jenkins. “The biggest opportunity for them, simply, is that they can come to college. From there, we expect nothing less than excellence. They have to meet responsibilities to stay in the program. They have to have drive to succeed.”

Ottilie Woodruff, assistant director of EOP, recalls the story of a recent graduate, Angela Caba, as an example of the program’s transformational possibilities.

“When I first met Angela, she seemed very positive and driven, but she just had some mental blocks with certain academic subjects,” Woodruff said. “She particularly had a tough time with science. Today, she’s a doctor.”

Often, one or more of the top five students in Buffalo State’s graduating class each year belong to EOP. Some students are members of both EOP and the All College Honors Program.

Many current EOP staff members were former EOP students. And a number of Buffalo State faculty and staff are graduates. Featured in last year’s 40th anniversary commemorative DVD were Peter Carey, chief, University Police; Leslie Dixie-Smith, staff associate, Student Accounts; Kenneth Giangreco, multimedia specialist, Instructional Resources; Patricia Ghee, coordinator, Scholarship Office; and Wendell Rivera, senior counselor, Counseling Center.

The list of notable EOP alumni also extends to the community. Graduates include the Honorable E. Jeannette Ogden, Buffalo City Court judge; Brenda McDuffie, president and CEO, Buffalo Urban League; and Cesar Cabrera, assistant administrative director, Buffalo and Erie County Workforce Development Consortium, and president of the board of directors, Hispanics United of Buffalo.

Despite EOP’s overwhelming success, staff members say there are still some misconceptions about the program. Among the erroneous notions: EOP is a financial aid program, is for minorities, is separate from the rest of the college, or exists to provide remedial classes.

“EOP is not a financial aid program; it’s an admissions program,” Jenkins said. “As for classes, only the first semester might include an additional class to bolster skills. We’re here to challenge students, and we never want to accept ‘less than.’”

“Most EOP students take out loans to attend college,” Woodruff said. “We’re also a diverse group. Not every student of color is an EOP student, and vice versa.”

All Buffalo State faculty and staff are encouraged to attend today’s EOP Honors Convocation. According to Jayatilleke, the event is highly motivational for students.

“The annual ceremony gets students to work hard,” he said. “We want our students to be quality students.”