Petion named to inaugural class of Educational Opportunity Program Ambassadors

Marketing and Communications staff
student Josue Petion

Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) Student Ambassador Josue Petion.

Chancellor Jim Malatras announces selection of 21 students from across SUNY to serve as Inaugural Class of EOP Student Ambassadors

State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras announced the inaugural class of Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) Student Ambassadors — 21 current EOP students from 20 SUNY campuses — that will mentor other students, create a student support network of EOP students across the SUNY system, advise the Chancellor on strengthening the program, and help inspire more students to seek opportunities through EOP.

Among those selected is SUNY Fredonia senior Josue Petion, a Communication: Video Production and Business Administration: Finance major from Brooklyn. He is also an intern this fall with Fredonia’s Office of Marketing and Communication.

Chancellor Malatras made the announcement at the recent EOP Directors Conference, focusing on economic eligibility, student engagement, recruitment practices, and strategic priorities.

Mr. Petion, in accepting the honor, noted, “This is a fantastic opportunity. Being a part of the Inaugural Class of EOP Student Ambassadors will allow me to represent the Education Development Program (EDP) and Fredonia at the SUNY Chancellor level. I will use this newly- received platform to be a voice and a beacon to Fredonia and all other students across the SUNY system. I would also like to thank EDP Director Rachel Skemer and Vice President for Enrollment and Student Services Cedric Howard for my nomination.”

"This is a fantastic opportunity...I will use this newly-received platform to be a voice and a beacon to Fredonia and all other students across the SUNY system." - Josue Petion

Each SUNY EOP director was asked to nominate students. A committee comprised of EOP directors and SUNY system administrators selected student ambassadors based on their demonstrated leadership, potential as a peer mentor, and commitment to the program.

Ambassadors are EOP students in good academic standing who are enrolled full-time for the Fall 2021 semester. They will receive stipends of $5,000 to carry out this important new role, totaling $105,000 for the year.

The program was first proposed by Giovanni Harvey, student leader at SUNY Polytechnic Institute and an EOP student, as a way to build on the success of EOP by strengthening peer mentorship and networking for students from historically excluded and underserved backgrounds. It continues the Chancellor’s commitment to bringing student perspectives into the decision-making process at SUNY to ensure students’ needs are being addressed in ways that work for them.

“For decades, the Educational Opportunity Program 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,” said Chancellor Malatras. “Our 21 new EOP Student Ambassadors will help us do just that by bringing their voices to the table and guiding SUNY leadership on ways to further increase access to SUNY, strengthen the support EOP students need on campuses to succeed, and continue to increase retention and graduation rates. I applaud SUNY Polytechnic Institute student leader Gio Harvey for bringing this great idea forward, and to Executive Director of Opportunity Programs and Interim Student Advocate Cheryl Hamilton for bringing it to life.”

SUNY Board Trustee Eunice A. Lewin said, “Some of the most driven individuals across SUNY are our students, and amongst our Educational Opportunity Program are thousands of hard-working, role models whose journey to a higher education is inspirational. EOP students come to SUNY from some of the most economically-disadvantaged communities in our state, and they thrive on our campuses. SUNY has a plan in place to significantly expand EOP, and with the help of our new EOP Student Ambassadors, more students like them will know a college education is attainable and that SUNY is ready and able to provide comprehensive academic and financial support along the way.”

SUNY Board Trustee Joseph Belluck said, “A quality education is one of the most necessary courses of action an individual can take in order to better develop personally and professionally, yet access to higher education continues to be an issue for those coming from underserved backgrounds. The Educational Opportunity Program has led the way in improving and expanding access to higher education with those individuals in mind. Through this inaugural class of EOP Student Ambassadors, I am confident the opportunities within EOP will continue to positively impact current and prospective students, as well as further address the need for equal access to higher education.”

Expanding EOP is a priority for the SUNY Board of Trustees and Chancellor Malatras, as seen in the SUNY 25-Point Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Action Plan approved this year. Thanks to significant new investment by the State of New York in last year’s budget, earlier this month, Chancellor Malatras was joined by SUNY leaders, elected officials, and students as he announced a comprehensive plan to build on the program. The plan starts with opening 1,000 more spots for students, expanding the newly created Pre-Medical EOP, establishing a $2 million student persistence fund to help those students most at risk of dropping out due to unforeseen financial circumstances, as well as expanding campuses, student financial awards, and academic resources and opportunities.

Executive Director of Opportunity Programs and Interim Student Advocate Cheryl Hamilton said, “It is an incredible opportunity to strengthen EOP and bring together an impressive group of student ambassadors to advocate for more representation within the program. By bolstering the opportunities within the program, I am confident that we will continue to inspire more students to pursue various avenues in higher education. EOP is one of SUNY’s most successful and accessible programs, and these student ambassadors are well equipped to increase student engagement and recruitment practices to encourage the further growth of EOP.”

Mr. Harvey added, “The Educational Opportunity Program has a long history of providing access to higher education, professional opportunities and mentorship to those of 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. 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.”

For a full list of the EOP Student Ambassadors, use the online link.

Since its inception in 1967, the EOP has provided access, academic support, and supplemental financial assistance to students from disadvantaged backgrounds, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college. In its 53-year history, the EOP has served more than 77,000 students and evolved into one of the country's most successful college access programs.

In the current academic year, SUNY has more than 10,000 EOP students on 50 SUNY campuses. EOP students often outperform their peers, with 74 percent of them graduating with a baccalaureate degree within six years.

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