March 8, 2017

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Record-setting turnout for EOC/EOP Advocacy Day

View the above video from EOC/EOP day!

A record-setting turnout for SUNY’s academic support programs sent a strong message to legislators March 8, as more than 700 SUNY students told lawmakers – including Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie – what SUNY's Educational Opportunity Program and Educational Opportunity Centers mean to them.

Heastie, a former Stony Brook University EOC counselor, surprised the standing-room-only gathering for UUP’s annual advocacy day for EOP and the EOCs, as the students and their instructors prepared to head out for a day of meetings with lawmakers in Albany.

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UUP President Fred Kowal introduced Heastie, above, first row, fourth from left, who posed with Stony Brook EOP Director Cheryl Hamilton, first row, third from left, and Stony Brook EOP students, to a standing ovation as one of UUP’s strongest friends in the state.

“When you see first-hand the benefits, when students do so much, I would say there’s nothing I’m more committed to than EOP and EOC,” Heastie told the gathering.

The speaker said he would continue the strong financial backing for the academic support programs that he has demonstrated every session since becoming speaker in 2015. So far, he has managed to restore recommended funding cuts in each of those years.

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Heastie appeared with Assembly Member Deborah Glick, above, a Manhattan Democrat who chairs the Higher Education Committee and has also been a steadfast ally of UUP. Said Glick: "We have some good opportunity now to restore funds and add, so that we can help more students on their paths to their futures."

Lawmakers also showed their support for EOP in another significant way: The Assembly issued a special proclamation commending EOP for a half-century of outstanding service to the state. Assembly Member Latoya Joyner (D-Bronx), an EOP alumna, presented the framed proclamation to Hamilton.

EOP provides special financial aid, counseling and tutoring to low-income college students who demonstrate strong potential to succeed. The EOCs provide job training and college preparatory classes. UUP is seeking the restoration of a $5 million cut to EOP, a $5.3 million cut to the EOCs and a $2 million cut to the Attain Labs that the governor recommended in his Executive Budget. Funding cuts over the past decade have taken a toll on EOP; each year, thousands of SUNY students are turned away because their campus programs are capped at far below the need.

Telling their stories

Students speak of the sense of mission that the EOP program instills in them, which starts with their introductory summer orientation before they enter college, and continues on into graduate school with mentoring from EOP alumni and faculty. The program emphasizes academics, leadership and community service.

“I wouldn’t even be at Geneseo without the EOP program,” said Matthew Cook, a senior who was elected to the Geneseo Village Board last year at age 20 while also a full-time student, which made him the second-youngest person ever to serve on the board.

In addition to Kowal, UUP statewide officers who joined the advocacy effort included Vice President for Professionals Philippe Abraham, an EOP alumnus; Vice President for Academics Jamie Dangler; and Secretary Eileen Landy.

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