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MCCC Celebrates 50 Years of New Jersey’s Educational Opportunity Fund


MCCC President Dr. Jianping Wang greets Dr. Glenn Lang, former Statewide EOF Executive Director, with Barbara D. Jefferson (center), Assistant Dean for Student Support Services and Director of the Educational Opportunity Fund Program.

MCCC's EOF Club President Jessica Isaac led the event as mistress of ceremonies.

Dr. L. Diane Campbell, Vice President for Student Affairs, with Dr. Thomas Wilfrid, former Vice President of Academic Affairs.

President Wang speaks with current MCCC students.

MCCC's extended EOF family, including current and past staff and directors.

West Windsor, N.J. – In a reunion spanning decades, members of MCCC’s past Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF), current club leaders, staff and faculty joined together at Mercer County Community College to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the EOF Program on November 9th 2018.

“EOF is a storied institution, providing academic pathways to countless students statewide,” said Barbara D. Jefferson, Assistant Dean for Student Support Services and Director of the Educational Opportunity Fund Program.

She added, “Mercer’s EOF community is a comprehensive support system for first generation/low-income residents. Each semester, the EOF Program provides over two dozen enrichment workshops, leadership conferences and events to aid in holistic student development.”

Among the esteemed guests were MCCC’s former Vice President of Academic Affairs, Dr. Thomas Wilfrid, two past Statewide EOF Executive Directors, Dr. Glenn Lang and Ms. Audrey Bennerson, EOF Advisory Board members, EOF staff and administrators from local universities and current Mercer EOF staff (Charles Weatherspoon, Stefanie Williams, Tricia Mayers, Al-Lateef Farmer, Nandita Koppikar, Christine Reid and Barbara Jefferson).

Also in attendance were MCCC President, Dr. Jianping Wang, Dr. L. Diane Campbell, Vice President for Student Affairs, Dr. J. Brandon Shaw, Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dr. Mark Harris, Vice President of Finance and Administration. The ceremony was organized by the EOF staff under the direction of Jefferson’s direction.

The EOF celebration featured a mix of familiar faces and new ones. Reverend Roy Bundy and Evelyn Thomas, the current director of the EOF Program at the Westminster Choir College, were both MCCC EOF Counselors several years ago, and spoke to the crowd about their experiences as former EOF staff at Mercer and encouraged the current EOF students to do their best and reach out to the program staff for assistance.

Jessica Isaac, Mercer’s EOF Club President, led the festivities as the mistress of ceremonies, while Club Treasurer Taiquan Person delivered a short history of the program.

Person’s historical address was further supported by Dr. Glenn Lang, the event’s keynote speaker. Now retired, Lang served as the Statewide EOF Executive Director and Assistant Secretary of Higher Education for Academic Affairs and Student Programs in the state’s Office of the Secretary of Higher Education.

According to Lang, EOF is rooted in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. “The year was 1967. Summer time comes, and boom, there’s an explosion. We have something called the ‘Long, Hot Summer.’ More than 150 cities across the country explode into social unrest,” Lang said.

Newark became a focal point of the turmoil. Conflict in the city was multifaceted. Lang said that the Board of Education’s exclusion of minority communities, combined with government seizure of property to build a university for medicine and dentistry, led to a legislative push for better representation in post-secondary education.

The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in April 1968 intensified the conflict even further. That summer, the Educational Opportunity Fund Act of 1968, sponsored by then-Republican assemblyman Thomas Kean, was passed, and the first class of EOF students arrived on campuses across New Jersey. “There was a $2 million appropriation, and 1,600 students bravely entered 34 colleges and universities that had previously excluded them,” Lang said.

Since then, thousands more students have followed. In 2018, more than 13,000 students received support from a collective $45 million fund to fulfill their educational aspirations. “EOF was an organizational change,” Lang said. “It disrupted business as usual. For 50 years EOF has been at the forefront of change in higher education.”

At Mercer, the EOF Program has helped foster success stories like those of alumni Kevin Ortega, Nicole Sullivan and Arifa Yousafzai who spoke at the event. Ortega, a 2011 graduate of Nottingham High School, entered the EOF program with some skepticism.

“When I was first introduced to EOF I thought it was a joke. It didn’t sound real. How can an institution care about students as much as Mr. Farmer does?” (Al-Lateef Farmer is a Counselor and Program Recruiter in MCCC’s EOF department.)

But with the added support, Ortega’s first year went well. “After joining the program I did everything perfectly,” he said.

However, in his second year, Ortega’s college experience took a turn. “Then I failed an entire semester,” he recalled. “I felt down, I felt lost. For the first time in my life I didn’t know what I was doing, I was stuck.”

Ortega credits the EOF support system as the push that got him back on track. “Mr. Farmer, the whole EOF family was right there to help me up. I remember Ms. [Tricia] Mayers looked at me and said, ‘We’re not done with you. You’re going to get up from this.’”

After graduating with his associate’s degrees in Biology and Chemistry and as president of the Organic Chemistry club, Ortega earned his bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Rowan University in 2018.

Sullivan, a 2011 Ewing High School graduate, noted that EOF helped her transition from Mercer to a four-year college.

“When you transfer to a four-year school without a built in group of friends, you might feel lost,” she acknowledged. “Everyone already has their friends. But I went to the EOF program at Rowan and they really took me in as one of their own because I was already part of the program at Mercer.” Sullivan is currently employed as a physician’s assistant.

Jefferson expects to see more success stories from EOF. “I hope EOF continues to get funded by the State of New Jersey and continues to receive unwavering support from the college’s administration. With this, we will be able to keep investing in our society’s most vulnerable residents and set the highest standard for low-income and first-generation college students who will in turn become New Jersey’s next generation of leaders.”

Additionally, she added, “It is my most ardent desire that the spirit of hope permeates throughout our program and everywhere our students go—bearing all the fruits of hope: success, confidence, achievement, positive change and healing. With this, our community and world will most certainly be a better place.”

Mercer’s EOF program offers academic support, leadership development and financial literacy, social and emotional development, intentional counseling and advisement, and need-based financial assistance to maximize the intellectual and social growth of all participants. Additionally, the program provides a platform for diverse dialogs around campus and sheds light on issues which many may lack awareness. The program begins with a six-week Pre-Freshman Summer Bridge Program to assist new students in making the transition into college.

Mercer EOF Program

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