When he first stepped onto campus in 1999, Cheath Rougn’s initial impressions of Cal Poly Pomona were “large, unfamiliar and intimidating.”
But Rougn, the first in his family to attend college, wasn’t alone when arrived. Through Summer Bridge, a five-week residential program for first-time freshmen, he connected with an academic advisor, other freshmen and residential advisors. Before the start of fall quarter, he got to know the academic and social aspects of the university.
“I enjoyed being able to explore the campus during a time when it was less crowded. The staff made me feel like my success was their priority. I know it gave me a leg up on the college experience,” he says.
Rougn, a ’04 communications graduate, is one of thousands of students who have successfully transitioned to life at Cal Poly Pomona and earned a college degree with help from the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2009. Its hallmark program, Summer Bridge, celebrated its 25th anniversary last year. EOP helps low-income students succeed in college by providing advising, tutoring, peer mentoring, College Success Seminars and, in some cases, financial assistance.
“When they first arrive on campus, the new ‘Bridgers’ appear eager and enthusiastic. And yet they can be fearful, intimidated and overwhelmed by the unknown,” says program coordinator Vicki Calderon. “They have little to no knowledge about the university and its expectations, but they are quickly assured that they will not be taking their first step into the future alone.”
Established in 1969 at every CSU campus, the EOP tries to level the playing field for low-income students who show motivation and potential to succeed in college. Each year, the program serves more than 1,000 students at Cal Poly Pomona through academic, social, financial and peer support. In addition, students get advice on study skills, time management, leadership and other topics. Students and alumni say the extra attention saved them from being lost on campus.
“I was able to start off college with a support network of friends and EOP professional staff that were able to help me throughout college to achieve my goals,” says Makeda Bostic, an ’05 alumna. “EOP is a great program, and I think students that participate in EOP are better prepared to navigate through their college experience than the average college student.”
Monique Allard, executive director of Student Support & Equity Programs at Cal Poly Pomona, is herself an EOP success story. “Twenty years ago, EOP helped me lay the foundation of my educational career at Cal State L.A. I went on to earn my doctorate at USC. I am proud to be a part of the future of this exceptional program and help thousands more achieve their educational dreams.”
Jordan Budisantoso, a senior in computer information systems and James Bell intern for Student Affairs, says he was motivated to help other students because EOP made the campus a second home. He worked at the Disability Resource Center for nearly four years, served as a resident advisor for two years, and was a Welcome Week leader.
Last year, Budisantoso and other EOP students attended the program’s 40th anniversary conference in Sacramento. The experience was life-changing for him, and Budisantoso decided to pursue a career in higher education.
“I realized that when given the right guidance, like the kind provided by the Educational Opportunity Program, even persons of the most common circumstances can achieve great things.”
For more information about EOP, visit http://dsa.cpp.edu/ssep/EOP.asp.