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Educational Opportunity Program Summer Institute Helps Students Start Strong | SUNY Plattsburgh

For the students in SUNY Plattsburgh’s Educational Opportunity Program, the EOP Summer Institute gives them a four-week head start before classes start in the fall.

“It’s a remarkable opportunity for the students,” said Kyla Relaford, director of EOP. “When they come back in the fall, they know the campus, they’re strong. They don’t arrive scared or intimidated. They have an air of confidence and are prepared.”

Immersion Program

Now in its 38th year, the EOP Summer Institute is a four-week immersion program. Students attend classes — math, English and an elective. They live in a residence hall, eat in the dining hall, and they spend time getting to know one another through recreational activities and field trips.

“We have 74 students this year,” Relaford said. “Our numbers have grown considerably in the last 10 years. Back then, we’d get 40 or 50 students. And in 38 years, the mission hasn’t changed. The way we do things may have changed over time, but our mission remains to give the students a well-rounded, comprehensive experience so when they return, they start strong.”

One of the ways the institute has changed has been the implementation of an EOP Day of Caring where students spend a day in service to the community, whether it is through coordinating a food drive for the Joint Council for Economic Opportunity or looming hats for newborns at nearby CVPH Medical Center.

‘Day of Caring’

“The Day of Caring is a unique way to get students exposed to the area,” Relaford said. “That’s one of the prime reasons for the institute — so many of the students are coming from New York City. Plattsburgh is a culture shock to them. This helps us introduce them to the area.”

And the outcomes are significant, she said.

“Last year, the students collected close to 1,000 items for the JCEO food bank.”

This year, the Day of Caring is Saturday, July 22. In addition to helping with the food drive and making baby hats, students will be able to choose from a list of activities that includes visiting the Vilas Home — an assisted-living facility near campus — and working in the campus garden, among others. Relaford said they are always looking for additional organizations to connect with for the Day of Caring.

During their down time, students go on field trips to the beach, the bowling alley, a hike up Poke-o-Moonshine and participate in EOP institute traditions that include a talent show, a scavenger hunt and the end-of-institute banquet.

Amy Daniels, a counselor at EOP, said the students “arrive in tears at the beginning and leave in tears at the end, for different reasons.”

‘Quite a Family’

“They miss each other and us a great deal when they have to go home for the final three weeks before classes start,” Daniels said. “When they return, they’re excited to be back because they’re not strangers. Within a week or two, they already know the older EOP students. We’ve already received emails from the older EOP students saying they can’t wait to meet the new ones.”

“It’s quite a family,” Relaford said. “That shared experience is a binding agent. They have all shared the traditions. They’re thrilled and excited to come back to it.”

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