Feb. 13, 2018

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UUP members, students, advocate for EOP/EOC

uupdate 2-13-18

UUP has long known that no one can tell the story of SUNY’s opportunity programs better than the students who benefit from them, and that proved true once again during the union’s Advocacy Day in Albany for the Educational Opportunity Program and the Educational Opportunity Centers of SUNY.

The Feb. 13 advocacy event, in Albany, also included SUNY technology sector colleges and academic medical centers.

Above, Buffalo State EOP student Nicholas Lee, center, speaks to a staffer for Assemblyman Sean Ryan (D-Buffalo) as Buffalo State Chapter member Jude Jayatilleke, second from right, and Buffalo State EOP students listen.

“Go out and do what has to be done today – it makes a difference,” UUP President Fred Kowal told about 200 students and EOP and EOC staff, some of who traveled from as far away as Buffalo to ask lawmakers for their support.”

Kowal assured the students that UUP will remember their need as it tries to restore funding cuts to just about every part of the SUNY budget.

A pattern of cuts

The governor’s Executive Proposal recommends a combined $10.3 million cut for both programs, which would virtually eliminate them. Every time the governor has cut the opportunity programs' budgets, the Legislature has restored funding. But in a year when the state faces a multi-billion-dollar deficit, nothing feels safe.

The governor released his budget Jan. 16, and has a 30-day window in which to amend it. Although Executive Proposal amendments are usually minor and technical, UUP hopes that by bringing the desperate circumstances of the Academic Medical Centers to lawmakers’ attention now, the subsidy might be restored.

Many of the students who came to Albany Tuesday were on their first Advocacy Day. Among them was Stephanie Pena, 22, an EOP student from Oneonta, who is also the first member of her family to go to college.

“I believe in advocating for programs that matter,” said Pena, who grew up in Harlem in New York City. “This is the first time that I had the time to do this. And it’s rewarding that it happened during my last semester.”

A lasting influence

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Above, statewide Membership Development Officer Tom Hoey, right, and Oneonta Chapter President Bill Simons, left, pose with Sen. Jim Seward (R-Oneonta) and EOP students.

EOP counselors Jude Jayatilleke and Neil O’Donnell – who is himself an EOP graduate – were among the UUP members who let their students tell their stories, but then added their own impassioned descriptions of the opportunity programs.

In a meeting with the staff of Assembly Member Sean Ryan, a Buffalo Democrat, O’Donnell told how he stayed in touch with his own EOP counselors for years after graduating, and that he expects to do the same for the students he works with now.

“It’s a bond that gets us through a lot,” O’Donnell said. “It makes an impact well beyond just four years as an undergraduate.”

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