The Brookdale community got a little bigger on July 1, as college officials, instructors and advisors welcomed nearly 120 new students into the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) program.
The program, which now includes 500 Brookdale students and 12,000 total students at two- and four-year colleges throughout the state, has provided educationally and economically disadvantaged students with financial assistance and support services since 1968.
Richard Morales Wright, director of Brookdale’s EOF program, welcomed the college’s newest enrollees and their parents during an official orientation at the Warner Student Life Center on the Lincroft campus, outlining a challenging and potentially rewarding experience in the years ahead.
“We are all very excited,” he said. “We want you to succeed. We want you to graduate, to transfer to a four-year school or to enter the workforce. Everything leads to those goals. And with your help, that will happen.”
The students, some of whom will be the first in their families to attend college, were given an overview of the EOF program and the myriad support services available to them at Brookdale.
While participants will receive state educational grants of up to $1,050 per year, Brookdale’s new EOF students will benefit more from a dedicated team of counselors, advisors, staff and administrators working alongside them every step of the way, said Richard Pfeffer, dean of enrollment development and student affairs at Brookdale.
“It’s all about personal attention,” he said. “There are so many people here who really care and devote their time and energy one-on-one. It’s not just a job to them.”
One of the most integral services offered by the Brookdale EOF is the “summer bridge” preparatory program, which provides eligible students with basic skills training, academic advisement, personal counseling, learning support, student leadership, achievement recognition and career development and transfer services.
Students who traditionally would have been required to take non-credit developmental courses in reading, writing and math during their first semester can use the program to learn necessary skills during the summer.
By the fall, successful summer bridge students can “test out” of the developmental courses and begin working toward their degree or certificate immediately.
All expenses for the summer program, including books, supplies and even stipends for transportation, are funded by the EOF, Wright said. Every EOF student will also have access to Brookdale’s counselors, advisors and a wide range of support services for financial aid, career planning, transfer assistance, federal work-study programs and more.
“We operate in concert with many offices and departments at this college,” Wright said. “We are really an inclusive team of professionals, and we are here to support the students who are here to today.”
EOF students also have the benefit of two dedicated student development specialists – Dr. Yesenia Madas and Fidel Wilson – and student development associates Karen O’Neill and Orpha Vemet.
Madas, a first-generation college student, said many incoming freshmen just need some personal attention or encouragement to convince them that they belong at the highest levels of education.
“Some can struggle with that, believing that they’re not good enough,” she said. “A lot of times you can change that just by virtue of a transcript. Like, ‘What do you mean you can’t do it? Look at these grades.’”
Following the orientation and a program overview specifically for the parents, the students were treated to a pizza lunch and a half hour with Andres Lara, a particularly energetic motivational speaker known as the Cuban Guy.
Lara’s talk centered on perseverance and determination in the face of difficulty, featuring a number of exercises requiring the students to engage with one another and come together as a group.
Shaniqua Baskerville, a new EOF student from Matawan, said she met some new people during the orientation and even ran into some old friends. She also learned a lot about what it will take to succeed in the program.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Baskerville, who plans on pursuing a career in athletic training and transferring to a four-year university at the completion of the Brookdale EOF program. “I’m definitely excited for the fall.”
Applicants for Brookdale’s EOF program may be high school seniors or graduates, GED recipients, current Brookdale students with less than 40 degree credits or transfer students with previous enrollment in an EOF program at another college. This year’s incoming class includes students from dozens of high schools and towns across Monmouth County.
While the summer bridge program is offered at the Lincroft, Long Branch and Hazlet campuses, students can complete their college coursework at any of Brookdale’s six locations.
More information on the program is available here.
Click here for more pictures of the EOF orientation.