BY BETH PETER
First generation college students, single parents, and financially burdened students enter the County College of Morris with lesser means which can inhibit their potential to thrive.
Recognizing this, the Educational Opportunity Fund seeks to combat the disadvantages faced by these students and others to aid them in achieving the greatest college experience they can.
“EOF supported me, and not just in education,” said Jane Quedding, vice president and nursing major at CCM. “It’s like a second home.”
The goal of EOF is to provide a network of mentors that assist with counseling support, personal and leadership development, along with financial support through EOF grants.
“The program really excels because since we provide such heavy academic support, the students end up doing really well,” said Pamela Marcenaro, director of EOF. “The retention rates of the program are very high.”
In 2015, 56 percent of EOF students graduated and 86 percent made it past their first year. These are higher than CCM’s graduation and retention rates, which are 28 percent and 72 percent, respectively.
EOF began on Nov. 13, 2014 and has worked with students each semester to pair them with mentors who can provide them guidance in more spheres than just the academic environment.
“For the mentors we emphasized that they’re not going to be the student’s counselors because all EOF students already have counselors,” said Edith Nelson, an EOF counselor. “They’re trying to gear them towards thinking about their career, thinking about what’s beyond CCM.”
Nelson said they want to encourage students to think about what they could do to enhance their resumes before they graduate.
The mentors are chosen to align with the majors students have chosen, though if a mentor is not available in a student’s particular field, they are matched by other characteristics, like personality or valuable skillsets benefitting students.
Students and mentors work together to develop leadership skills, as well as business skills such as a rehearsed “30 second resume” speech, and the proper etiquette to exchange business cards.
“It takes practice to do that,” Nelson said. “But networking is how most people get jobs. It’s not from the newspaper or online, it’s who you know and making connections.”
The admission requirements for EOF students restrict eligibility to those who need aid on campus the most, whether that entails financial, professional, or familial commitments that hinder a student’s collegiate drive. That is not to say, however, that EOF is a charity where students gain aid without effort on their part.
“If a student does not have that drive to succeed, the program may not be a fit for them,” Marcenaro said.
EOF students participate in annual events on campus, such as bake sales and college visits, to engage the larger student body, as well as eight hours of community service and four workshops each semester.
“The hardest thing is we need more people to know about EOF, and need more supporters,” Quedding said. “We aim for awareness.”
Quedding praised the program for helping students without overly pressuring them. The students set up goals for what they want to accomplish, then meet with their mentors three to five times throughout the semester to assess their progress. Students further meet with their counselors twice each month to discuss and come up with any issues affecting their educational success.
EOF hopes to aid students in the transition to the workforce or to a four-year school.
“Compared to other EOF programs, most of them are peer programs,” Nelson said. “We’re different because we have professionals matched with students.”
Quedding said that thanks to EOF, she’s doing better than when she first started taking classes at CCM.
To find out more, EOF is located in Cohen Hall 211 and can be emailed at email@example.com.