During the civil rights movement, activists pushed for the right to equal access to higher education. One of the ways this happened was through the implementation of Educational Opportunity Programs (EOP) throughout CSU campuses. The EOP program has been thriving for 45 years as a result of a dedicated community of CSUN staff members.
From that point forward, the program has evolved to meet the needs of students that historically come from low-income, educationally underrepresented, first generation populations and tries to guarantee their success, not just access to colleges or universities. This unique program provides necessary services to first-time freshman and transfer students.
“My ultimate role is to assist the students with achieving their goals…as their mentor, supporter, advocate,” said Dinah Nucum, who is the EOP advisor.
The EOP staff works directly with students to help them through their college experience.
For students, this aspect has really helped assure their graduation and involvement in school throughout their process.
Blanca Samano, 23, senior Chicano/a studies major has been involved in EOP since her freshman year.
“When I started school, I didn’t actually know what being in college meant. I never attended an orientation and I never enrolled in classes,” Samano said. “…They walked me to my classes, they showed me what I had to do and helped me get into my dorm. They have basically been there since day one and they’ve been my guides in school.”
For students such as Samano, school is a difficult journey and EOP has been a great resource. Jose Luis Vargas, CSUN director of EOP, has been a part of the program since its startup and was one of the many students who advocated for its creation, allowing the program to succeed and grow.
“If it wasn’t for the leadership of Jose Luis Vargas I don’t think the program would be at the level that it is today,” said Leslie De Leon Tzic, multimedia coordinator for EOP.
The EOP has many programs that help guide a student’s’ path to graduation.
“It’s a decentralized model,” Nucum said. “Within each department or college there is an EOP advisor to assist the students get connected with the department.”
An outreach team at CSUN attends different underprivileged high schools to inform and encourage students to apply to CSUN through the EOP program, De Leon Tzic explained.
“Since I went to an underrepresented school, a lot of the college counselors knew about the program so they would advise us to apply to CSUN through the EOP program,” Samano said.
Once students are admitted, they can partake in a summer program to get accustomed to college life, said De Leon Tzic.
Each year the summer program admits between 500 and 600 students. While in the program students are able to live on campus and take part in summer courses.
One of the main foundations for the EOP program is to have relationships and connections on campus that will meet student needs. Services working with the EOP help provide housing for former foster youth.
“I hope they continue helping and making it easier for students of color and underrepresented students to come into four year universities,” Samano said.
Although CSUN is a diverse campus, even with the help of EOP, there is still an under representation of Latino and African American males attending college, explained De Leon Tzic.
“I would hope that a program like ours doesn’t [need to] exist, but I don’t think we’ll get to that anytime soon. Our program exists because there is a need to service a population that has been underrepresented,” De Leon Tzic said. “We want to continue providing opportunities, advocacy and a community for students who have been marginalized by a very unfair system.”
In light of the 45th anniversary, which was celebrated on Tuesday Sept. 17th, EOP is having a celebration that will bring the community together to enlighten people about the history, richness and benefits of the organization, Nucum said.
In addition to the anniversary celebration, EOP is having a Free Speech Event on Oct. 28th to encourage students to speak, perform and express themselves, in everything ranging from political to personal struggles.