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Higher Education Opportunity Program to salute 40th anniversary at Senior Celebration Dinner May 14

April 26, 2010

Sapna Kollali
(315) 443-4751

Current and former students of Syracuse University’s Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) will help celebrate the 40th anniversary of the program during the Office of Supportive Services (OSS) Recognition Ceremony and Senior Celebration on May 14.

HEOP is a state-funded program established to help New York state residents with strong academic potential who would otherwise be excluded from a college education because of economic or academic disadvantages. SU established the Arthur O. Eve HEOP in 1969, providing participants with full-need financial aid awards.

“Through the HEOP program at SU, we are able to look at an application and take into consideration other things indicating that–with proper academic, personal and financial support–this student can quickly assimilate into university life and become successful,” says Director Denise Trionfero. 

Along with HEOP, the Student Support Services (SSS) program falls under the umbrella of OSS. Together, the two programs serve about 400 students.

Student Support Services is a federally funded program that provides academic support to admitted students who are educationally at risk because of economic or academic circumstances or their status as first-generation college students.

One of those first-generation college students is Patricia Abraham, of Queens, N.Y. Since starting at SU, she has earned three high-level scholarships, including the prestigious Remembrance Scholarship.  

“My life has been shaped by poverty, struggle and hardship. Although the roadblocks were numerous, I found the strength to continue and succeed. During my years at Syracuse University, I have worked hard and consistently aimed for my personal best,” she says. “In the future, I want to meld my academic achievements with my creative writing ability and acquire a graduate degree.”

SSS Director Robert C. Wilson says in addition to high school academic records, he looks at students’ extracurricular and volunteer activities—after-school clubs, church organizations and Saturday morning academies, for example—to determine if they are a good fit for the program, which has been at SU since 1975.

“It does no good to admit an unsupported individual who has given no indication of being able to succeed at college-level work; to the contrary, it can set up a damaging failure,” Wilson says. “If the high school record is not as strong as we’d like, we look for other things, especially voluntary activities—anything that embodies the positive principle of participation above and beyond the classroom. We need something that tells us, ‘This student makes an extra effort!’”

Once admitted, participating students are brought to campus before their first year for SummerStart, an academically intense, six-week program to familiarize them with the social atmosphere of college while they learn about academics and take credit-bearing courses. During their college career, students have access to advisors who help them navigate the academic, financial and personal mazes they might find.

“This kind of one-on-one guidance is especially important to students who don’t have close friends or relatives with college experience,” says Trionfero. “At HEOP, we are family. Students know they can turn to us for advice that is both accurate and friendly.”

OSS students have tallied some impressive statistics over the past 40 years. Since 2000, 11 students have been named Remembrance Scholars, one of the highest honors awarded at SU. About 15 to 20 students spend a semester abroad each year. And OSS alumni are holding jobs in education, human services, the sciences, the entertainment industry and the corporate world. Some have gone on to earn doctoral degrees.

“There are record numbers of students achieving a semester GPA of 4.0, and the graduation rates of OSS students have equaled or exceeded the University rates for four out of the last five years,” Wilson says. “This indicates that the students have not only the talent but the strength and resilience to overcome the challenges of higher education and the barriers that can prevent success. Almost all of our students have contributed to our first-year retention rates, which in recent years have always been high.”

Among the alumni who plan to help celebrate the HEOP 40th anniversary are Franklyn DuPorte and Damayra Perez, both 1999 graduates. They are now married and living in the Washington, D.C., area, where he is an attorney and she is a realtor. DuPorte credits both his and his wife’s success to the support he received through SU’s HEOP staff.

“Without the financial support of HEOP and the guidance of dedicated staff members, neither my wife nor I would be where we are today,” he says. “HEOP believed in us and, for the first time in our lives, we were able to believe in ourselves.”

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