Dozens of students in Brookdale’s Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) program were honored on Oct. 10 for moving one step closer to their academic goals.
The EOF program’s “Welcome Back to School and Student Recognition Luncheon,” held in the Warner Student Life Center, highlighted students who made the Dean’s List, were inducted into a national honor society, are nearing graduation or who are new members of the program and the Brookdale community.
Incoming students were given a special EOF program honor cord, which they can wear along with their robes and an EOF sash on the day they graduate from Brookdale. Program Director Richard Morales Wright said the gesture is a symbol of how far each student can go if he or she works hard enough.
“This is to say welcome, that you are now a part of this community,” Wright said. “But it also says that you now have some expectations, and that we will support you so that you can meet those expectations.”
EOF is a state-sponsored program that currently reaches more than 12,000 educationally and economically disadvantaged college students across New Jersey. More than 400 students are currently enrolled at Brookdale, including about 40 new students who joined this year.
The students, some of whom are the first in their families to attend college, receive a state grant toward tuition and are offered a host of counseling and support services at Brookdale, including the annual “Summer Bridge” program that helps high school graduates prepare for the rigors of higher education.
Brookdale’s EOF program also features a dedicated team of advisors and staff, including counselor Maria Fernandez, student development specialists Karen O’Neill and Fidel Wilson, and program Coordinator Kathleen Trammell.
Richard Pfeffer, dean of enrollment development and student affairs at Brookdale, encouraged all students gathered at the luncheon to make the most of the opportunities and resources at their disposal. Whether it’s sitting up front in class, doing classwork on time or studying an extra hour for a test, Pfeffer said even the smallest of choices now can have a significant impact on the future.
“What you choose to do, every day, will impact all the days that follow,” he said. “Choose to be engaged, choose to take advantage of what this program has to offer. Because you guys are our future. You can make a difference.”
Prior to the awards ceremony, Wright gave a visual presentation titled “Our Place, Our Time,” which highlighted the community-building and enrichment activities students had completed together throughout the previous year.
He also outlined a number of new EOF initiatives for 2014-15, including a “Rising Leaders Academy” that encourages students to take on large-scale social justice projects and enlist their fellow students and community members in trying to address them.
Projects are already being coordinated with Habitat for Humanity and the Red Bank-based food pantry Lunch Break, Wright said. Other new programs center on financial literacy, career development and long-term planning.
“We’re just trying to make an impact, and to promote student success as much as we can,” Wright sad. “Which is why we are here to congratulate so many of our students today. All of these honorees have really been getting it done.”
Second-year student Justus Santana-Simmons was honored for his success at Brookdale and his approaching graduation in January. The EOF program, he said, definitely made a difference along the way.
“It’s always good to know you have a big brother or somebody on campus who you can go to when you need something,” said Santana-Simmons, who hopes to transfer to Rutgers. “Fidel [Wilson] has been helping me with my schedule and answering my questions since I got here. You can tell that they want all of us to leave here and go on to better things.”
For more information on the EOF program at Brookdale, click here.
Check out more photos of the recognition ceremony here.