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Time to celebrate: 50 years of EOP

CCSU President Dr. Zulma R. Toro is pictured here with members of the EOP summer program faculty at the 50th anniversary celebration of CCSU’s Educational Opportunity Program on June 29 in Alumni Hall. The event brought EOP graduates and supporters to campus for an evening music and memories. (Photo by Johnathon Henninger)

Central Connecticut State University celebrated the 50th anniversary of its Educational Opportunity Program on June 29 and 30 with a weekend of festivities. Nearly 200 people took part in the celebration recognizing the success of the program, known as EOP on campus.

EOP was launched in 1969 to prepare talented minority students for the academic rigor and expectations of college. The weekend festivities followed a week of preparations for staff and current students involved in the program this summer. A class of 66 EOP students arrived on campus July 1 to begin the intensive five-week program, which runs through Aug. 2.

CCSU President Zulma R. Toro kicked off the anniversary celebration Friday by welcoming guests and praising the contributions of those who have kept the program going and growing for 50 years. Attendees included EOP alumni, founders, administrators, scholarship donors, community supporters, and undergraduate peer mentors.

“For the past 50 years, the success of the Educational Opportunity Program has depended on the summer program faculty, administrators, our College Peer Mentors, and other campus community supporters,” Toro said. “These individuals dedicate their summers to the EOP, which helps first-generation and low-income students realize their dream of acquiring a degree.”

The anniversary weekend culminated with a gala for EOP alumni and their guests at the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville.

EOP alumni gather for a group photo at the Friday evening reception on campus. (Photo by Johnathon Henninger)

EOP was created by CCSU math professor George Pattison, who noticed a number of talented minority students in his classes falling behind due to a lack of preparation. The program is designed for high school seniors with the desire and potential to succeed in college-level classes but who fall short of CCSU’s regular admissions standards. An estimated 2,100 students have taken part in EOP since it was founded, many of whom have gone on to achieve success in college and in careers in the fields of education, social, work, law, engineering, and beyond.

Annabelle Diaz, who earned three degrees at Central after completing EOP, was among program alumni on hand for the anniversary. She is now a vice principal at A.I. Prince Technical High School in Hartford. Awilda Reasco, the program’s current director, is another success story. She completed the program in 1980 and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology at CCSU and a master’s in social work on a full scholarship at UConn. Also in attendance was C.J. Jones, who took over management of EOP from Pattison in 1970 and was the first full-time director of the program. He ran it until his retirement in 2009.

Jones and his wife, Linda, also a CCSU grad, helped to coordinate the celebration. Jones noted how excited he and his wife were to have students from all over the country and different years of the program in attendance.

Reasco added, “I’m very excited to have brought together everybody who has experienced the uniqueness of this program. We all have something in common and had the opportunity to share our professions and our stories. So many of us were the first in our families to go to college, breaking the cycle of poverty and enabling us to provide better futures for our children. That’s the essence of this program. Education is the key and it changed our lives forever.”

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