Abeer Alziadi is a walking, talking advertisement for OCC’s Educational Opportunity Program which is more commonly referred to by the initials “EOP.” Alziadi became the first member of her family to earn a high school diploma when she graduated from Henninger. She made it to OCC thanks in large part to assistance provided by On Point for College. Once on campus she found a home in the EOP office. “My first semester I lived there. Whenever I needed help there was always someone available. My time in the EOP office really impacted my grades in a positive way. It was where I was most comfortable.”
OCC’s EOP office is located on the first floor of the Gordon Student Center. It provides access, academic support and financial aid to students who show promise for succeeding in college but who may not have otherwise been offered admission. If students need to use a computer, print documents, get help with their school work or financial advice the EOP office is where they go.
Marcus A. Watts directs the staff of counselors, academic coaches, program assistants and tutors who serve the program’s approximately 300 students. He has over 20 years of experience working with students from disadvantaged backgrounds and, by his own admission, was considered to be one in his youth. “It’s my job in EOP to talk with students about how they can get where they want to go. The one thing I say to them all the time is, ‘I don’t care where you’re from. I only care about where you are trying to go.’ The reality is they can accomplish anything they want to.”
Watts is a native of New Orleans who came north to attend SUNY Brockport, met his wife, started a family and never left the area. He joined the College in February. “I love OCC. I’m excited to be here. The quality of students is great. I get a chance to show them the quality they bring to the table. A lot of times they don’t see it right away.”
Morris Ndebay is another outstanding student who utilizes everything EOP has to offer. He’s a refugee from Liberia who came to the United States with his family, earned his GED, became an American citizen and enrolled at OCC in 2013. “The EOP office is a wonderful place. You can use the computers for your homework and there are tutors and advisors you can work with. It’s a great resource for students who make use of it.” Ndebay is a Mechanical Technology major who will graduate in 2016. He also works full time to help support his mother, brother and sister who came to the U.S. with him.
As for Alziadi she is now a student at Syracuse University majoring in social work but she’s still a presence in OCC’s EOP office. She’s working with On Point for College and teaming up with EOP’s Deb Starczewski to make sure students are on the right path to graduate. “We share a lot of students so why not collaborate and make a bigger impact?”