The SUNY system’s Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) has elected 21 student ambassadors, including a Binghamton University student, who will serve to mentor and strengthen connections among EOP students.
According to the academics section of the SUNY website, EOP supports students throughout their college careers within their SUNY institution by setting forth long-range commitments to provide access, academic stability and financial aid for students who have the strong potential to succeed in higher education but are limited by financial and educational barriers. The new student ambassador program aims to create a support network across these EOP students, with 21 ambassadors chosen across 20 SUNY campuses.
In an Oct. 22 SUNY News press release, SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras commented on the EOP’s work over the years and discussed its purpose to ensure that a student’s personal needs and opportunities are fulfilled to succeed in higher education.
“For decades, the [EOP] at SUNY has changed the lives of countless students from across every corner of the state, and we must continue to build upon that legacy of access, opportunity and success for the next generation of students,” Malatras said.
The EOP’s Ambassadors Program follows the introduction of the SUNY 25-Point Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Action Plan approved earlier this year. According to the press release, the program was first proposed by Giovanni Harvey, a student leader at SUNY Polytechnic Institute and EOP student, who wanted to bring in student perspectives to the decision-making process across SUNY campuses for those who had historically excluded and underserved backgrounds.
“I have grown personally and professionally within EOP, hence why I felt it necessary to expand the program and introduce EOP student ambassadors to increase student mentorship and outreach,” Harvey said in the press release. “The student voice is a crucial part of an incoming student feeling confident in their college experience, and I am certain that applying that same concept to EOP will foster more strength and accessibility in the program.”
Cheryl Hamilton, executive director of opportunity programs and interim student advocate, also assisted in the development of the program. The selected students were initially nominated by each SUNY institution’s EOP director and were then selected by a committee of EOP directors and SUNY system administrators based on their demonstrated leadership, potential as a peer mentor and commitment to the program.
Galileo Savage, a sophomore majoring in political science at BU, was one of the 21 students selected to take on the role of an EOP ambassador.
“Upon finding out that I was being nominated for such a prestigious role I couldn’t help but be appreciative, as I saw it as the University selecting me as a possible candidate to be the face of our EOP program which was mind-blowing in itself,“ Savage said. “However, I’ll be honest, I didn’t think I was going to get the gig because of how selective the program is. I was going to my Italian class when I got the call and I couldn’t believe it. However, I am eager to start and knew that I was going to put my best foot forward to really help the [BU] community grow.”
While maintaining a good academic standing as a full-time student for the fall 2021 semester, the students will not only be tasked with mentoring other students and advising the chancellor on strengthening the program, but will also be looked upon as identifiable leaders among the EOP community. Ambassadors are to be available to further create and inspire a student EOP support network across the SUNY system and encourage more students to seek opportunities through the program.
Emily Duchi, an undeclared freshman, said the integration of student ambassadors into the program will provide a greater perspective for EOP students.
“I think that this is a great idea,” Duchi said. “With the student ambassadors, there can be more direct communication to help improve the lives of students who are learning about what resources can to help them succeed.”
Samuel Stiller, an undeclared freshman, commended the addition of the EOP Ambassadors Program and said it would not only expand and build the missions behind the EOP, but provide another way to strengthen their students’ educations.
“I think it’s great that EOP now has this program because it will further enrich the experience of EOP students and provide them with an additional resource to seek out even more educational opportunities,” Stiller said.
Alongside Savage’s responsibilities and commitment as both a student ambassador and as a current SUNY student, he hopes to strengthen his personal experiences and goals for the EOP from this opportunity.
“With this position I hope to make the EOP community more of a family and learn more about myself, hoping to become someone that EOP students feel they can turn to in times of need and uncertainty,” Savage said. “I would love to leave the role as a better leader than when I came into it, where I can be able to show EOP students that they have another individual who wants what is best for them and is willing to advocate for them and do anything I can to help them.”