The Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) at SUNY New Paltz celebrated its 50th year of service to students and the campus community at their biennial conference on May 5, 2018.
EOP hosts a conference every two years to provide opportunities for alumni to reconnect with the College and network with current students. The program includes workshops, keynotes and panel discussions designed to allow students to learn from and be inspired by the life experiences of their EOP forerunners.
The theme of this year’s conference, “Legacy Making, Future Building,” struck a tone of retrospection and optimism, as EOP looks back on past successes, and ahead to continued growth for the family of EOP students and alumni at New Paltz.
Tomás D. Morales ’75 (History) returned to campus to deliver the keynote address. Morales, a New Paltz EOP alumnus who served as Director of the Office of Special Admissions and EOP from 1981 – 1994, is currently president of California State University, San Bernardino.
“EOP at New Paltz is really a leader and an exceptional model, and it’s an honor to be back at my alma mater, where my children were raised and where I worked for many years,” Morales said.
“In 1969, New York State formally established the provisions of all the educational opportunity programs in the state,” Morales said. “This was significant, because it demonstrated a recognition that these programs that served ‘disadvantaged’ students should be an integral part of New York State’s plan for higher education. In the years since, EOP has graduated over 70,000 alumni from throughout the SUNY system. Many EOP graduates have contributed significantly as politicians, educators and leaders on the local, state and national level.”
A more recent EOP graduate, Destiny Saldivar ’13 (Psychology), provided a second keynote. During her time as a student, Saldivar earned both the Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence and the Arthur O. Eve award for Student Excellence. She organized her address around the theme of “Onward,” a reminder of past adversity met and overcome, and future accomplishments yet to be realized.
“The SUNY New Paltz Educational Opportunity Program embodies ‘Onward’ rather effortlessly, because a major part of pushing ‘Onward’ is having a community around you that allows you to believe that it is possible,” Saldivar said. “We are surrounded by mentors and visionaries; people who believe in our futures before we believe them for ourselves. It is our job as beneficiaries of this program to provide others with that same ability to believe. “
This year’s conference also saw the presentation of the EOP Alumni Impact Award to Tony Bonilla ’87 (Spanish) ’05g (Professional Studies), the current EOP director, who has proven himself to be a tireless advocate of the program, its students and its graduates.
Capturing the “Legacy Making, Future Building” spirit of the day (and causing more than a few audience members to get a little misty-eyed), the award was presented to Bonilla by Morales, his predecessor and former mentor, and by his children, Anthony and Nyah.
“Tony and his staff take a student-centered approach with advisees,” said President Donald P. Christian. “They are crucial mentors and provide the type of personalized guidance that students benefit from throughout their years here. Thank you, to the EOP staff and faculty members who work closely with EOP for your dedication, passion and hard work. Our students know how much you care about their success, and I know you will continue this good work.”