Karimatou Diallo, a Bronx, N.Y. native, attended A. Phillip Randolph High School and is currently at junior at Binghamton University. She is the oldest in her family of four and the first to go to college. Diallo started off her college career at SUNY Oswego, but always knew that Binghamton University was where she would wind up. “At Oswego, the support system was not very accessible and so I didn’t really get the support I wanted and needed. Although I was doing well academically, I didn’t experience a sense of caring from the faculty, and I was struggling to find a major that suited me; so it was easy for me to make the transition to Binghamton when I did.”
Although transferring to Binghamton was relatively straightforward, the adjustment to the workload took some getting used to. “My first semester at Binghamton was the first time I really had to study and not play around.” She appreciates the fact that faculty hold students accountable for their learning, and thus she adjusted her thinking and study habits to meet the demands. She credits her EOP counselor, who interestingly is also named Karima, for helping her make that transition as smooth as possible. “I have a great connection with Karima,” Diallo said. “For me, this is the first time I’ve connected so deeply with someone who was not a friend or family member.”
Diallo has not only made the transition to Binghamton academically, but also socially. She is a member of the African Student Organization (ASO), the Caribbean Student Association (CSA) and was selected as a scholar for the Jewish Federation for the Education of Women (JFEW). The JFEW-SUNY International Relations and Global Affairs Program is a two-year program for students from Binghamton, SUNY Geneseo and Stony Brook with a preference for female scholars. The integrated program includes (1) two years of scholarship support (up to $5,500 each year); (2) a monthly seminar series for two academic years; and (3) a paid internship in a New York-based global organization offered during the summer between the junior and senior years ($3,500). Diallo, who is majoring in political science with a concentration in global and international affairs is hoping to work for the United Nations or another organization that works with underserved populations.“I want to assist immigrants and other underserved populations navigate the complicated systems that exist both with the U.S. and abroad,” she said.
When asked what advice she would give to other transfer students, she said, “Talk with your EOP advisor often and make good use of the tutorial center. When you do these things, you come to learn quickly that the EOP family is very welcoming.” Diallo also has some words of wisdom for current and future freshman. “At Binghamton you really need to focus because the academic rigor is no joke. It will be challenging, but if you use the support system that is in place, you can’t help but succeed.”
As a first-generation college student and the oldest of three children, Henry Ghanney has always been the type of student who understood the importance of having both a master plan as well as a backup plan in order to reach his goals. When describing himself, Ghanney uses three words, “persistent, ambitious and light-hearted,” traits that have served him well in his journey thus far.
But for Ghanney, getting into Binghamton was no easy feat. After receiving a rejection letter from Binghamton as a freshman, he put plan B into action, attending SUNY Delhi for a year with the goal of obtaining a GPA high enough to apply for transfer to Binghamton. His backup plan was a success, and in fall 2014, his dream of attending Binghamton became a reality. “God is good; hard work and persistence does pay off,” he stated.
Transition to the academic rigor of Binghamton was “a bit of a transfer shock,” said Ghanney, who experienced a tremendous drop in his first semester at Binghamton, causing him to question his decision to transfer. “The workload was intense,” and he quickly learned that “what worked at SUNY Delhi was not going to work at Binghamton.” But, because of his propensity for finding a way to succeed, Ghanney wasn’t deterred. “I’m a self-motivated person,” he said. “I am always optimistic and I always have this strong belief in God and in myself that I can always move forward, never back.”
Ghanney credits the “EOP family” for providing him with the foundation needed to navigate his Binghamton experience. “My EOP counselor was Wes Van Dunk (the famous Wes Van Dunk),” he said, and despite some initial concerns about the difference in age, the first meeting set the tone. “There was a genuine connection between us,” Ghanney said. “He didn’t pressure me to do things his way, but helped me to figure out how to do them in my own way.” He credits Van Dunk for molding him into the leader he is today.
This was especially true when Ghanney was doubting his ability to pursue pre-med. “He told me about an EOP student who graduated from Binghamton with a 2.6 GPA who is now a neurosurgeon and he’s making bank (slang). It was motivational to hear that and it reminded me to never give up. I learned that my dream for medical school is never over and that as long as I am persistent and have a plan to getting to my end goal, I'll get far in life."
Ghanney plans to take a year off before applying to medical school. He hopes to become a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, and follow that with a specialty in pediatrics and a sub-specialty in neurology. He wants to pursue this specialty because of his experience of growing up with and taking care of one of his sisters, who has autism. “God gave me the opportunity to work with my sister to build me up to have patience and to help me understand that she would inspire me to do better in life. I also have an interest in understanding how children with this disorder behave and what causes that. It stimulates my interest.” And, despite increasing his GPA to over 3.0, he understands that his GPA may not allow him to pursue medical school right away. But, as in the past, he has a plan.
“I plan to pursue a post-baccalaureate degree at either Temple University or Drexel University for two years.” If he does well at either institution, his chances of admission to their medical school to pursue osteopathic medicine increases significantly. “I’m attracted to osteopathic medicine because of its holistic approach, which focuses on the whole individual, not just the medical aspect of well-being,” he said.
When asked what words of wisdom he would share with incoming students, Ghanney’s message was simple: “Have faith, be ambitious and remain focused. Four years will go by fast, just like high school, and you want these four years to be memorable, so have a purpose in everything that you do so that you can meet your goals and be proactive.”
Besides being academically focused, Ghanney has also been very involved on campus. “I’m a resident assistant (RA); a member of JUMP Nation; I’ve served as an alcohol and other drugs (AOD) counselor with the CHOICES program; and I’m a Licensed Patient Care Technician at Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton,” he said. To say that Ghanney has taken full advantage of EOP, Binghamton University and the surrounding community would be an understatement. And, because of his “persistence, ambition, and light-heartedness,” he’s destined for great things.
The loss of a parent is tragedy from which many have difficulty recovering. For Rebecca Greenwald, learning to cope with such a tragedy, coupled with making the transition to college as a first-generation, low-income student, has made every accomplishment achieved that much more meaningful.
For Greenwald, the process of applying to college was a welcomed distraction from the day-to-day struggles that came along with being the middle child in a family that was constantly dealing with the loss of the matriarch of the family. And for Greenwald, getting accepted into Binghamton was bittersweet; especially given that Binghamton was the last school to notify her of its admission decision. “Binghamton was my first-choice college, so when I found out that I was accepted, I was so relieved and happy that I did not have to worry any more about the possibility of being rejected,” she said. With an offer in hand, it was now time to prove to herself that she was ready for all that college had to offer, and her first challenge would be the EOP summer program.
For Greenwald, having to participate in the summer program was disappointing. “I wasn’t ready to come for the four-week program; especially without my phone,” she said. “It was upsetting at first, but you do what you have to do in order to succeed.” However, even with that positive mindset, it was still difficult for Greenwald to fully embrace the experience the way some of her peers did. “I felt the need to stay home and work in order to help out my dad financially,” which is why she initially considered not going away to college. In the end, she was happy that she took the leap of faith and decided to complete the summer program. “Looking back, it was definitely a help; especially the credits in terms of being on track to graduate in four years. It helped with the transformation from being a high school student to being a college student.”
One of the aspects of being an EOP student that Greenwald found to be most beneficial has been the relationships she has developed with the members of the EOP staff. “Erik Colon is my assigned EOP counselor and he has been there for me through thick and thin. He has been there to make sure I get things done,” she said with a smile. And, because of the open door policy that exists within EOP, Greenwald was able to develop personal relationships with others as well. However, it does bother her that others take the program for granted. “Unfortunately there are those who are embarrassed about their affiliation with EOP,” she said, and she doesn’t understand that mentality. “Who cares about the title of the program or what it means? It shouldn’t be an uncomfortable thing to mention in conversation. I come through everyday just to say hi and to acknowledge people,” she said. “It’s good for the connections to say hi and to have people recognize your face.”
Besides having a regular presence in the EOP office, Greenwald has been very involved on campus in a variety of capacities including with SUNY Kids; JUMP Nation; the Spanish Club; Phi Alpha Delta (co-ed law fraternity); as a tutor for the Student Athletes Success Center (human development, Spanish and writing) and for the past two years as an EOP Tutor. And for Greenwald, doing so has been helpful in continue to heal from her own personal losses. “I’ve educated people on my past and have been able to help people see that regardless of your past, you can do anything you set your mind to.”
Given all that Greenwald has overcome and all that she has come to learn about herself, when asked what advice she would give to a new student about getting off to a good start at Binghamton, she had these words of wisdom to share: “Don’t get discouraged and don’t feel like college is a competition. Do the best you can do and be the best that you can be. Get involved on campus right away (e.g. University Fest). Explore your surroundings and take classes that you might not always want to take – get out of your comfort zone.” Her final piece of advice was directed at students in the final stages of deciding on the college of their choice. She encourages students to find a school they feel fits best for them. “Don’t go anywhere because it’s where your parents want you to go or because it’s where your friends are,” she said. Wise and honest words from a student who, as a third-year student, has made decisions that she can be proud of.
So, what’s next for Greenwald you might ask? Well, in keeping with how she has made decisions thus far, she has a plan that will take her to the next phase of development. “I plan to work as a paralegal for two years at a large law firm in NYC. It’s my hope that through this experience and training, I will be able to identify what aspect of law I’m best suited for.” And, of course, she has a backup plan. “If I find that law is not for me, I plan to go back to school and get my MSW to be a social worker or a school counselor in order to provide support for students the way that my school counselors provided it for me.” And, because of her sheer determination to succeed, we have yet to see the best of Rebecca Greenwald.
Despite knowing that going to college was not optional, for Veronika Polyakova timing and finances weighed heavily on her decision to attend Binghamton University. Polyakova was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, and immigrated to the United States with her family in 1999, at the age of 3. Despite being encouraged in high school to apply to “reach schools,” Polyakova, who is a fraternal twin (sister Yuliya is also an EOP student at Binghamton) knew from the start that going away to college might not be possible due to the family’s financial situation.
“Bittersweet” is how she described feeling when she got her offer letter to Binghamton. “It was great to feel accepted, but sad because going away to college was viewed as not an option because of the cost,” she said. And with two going off to college at the same time, the odds were not good. But upon receiving her financial aid package, she decided, “this might be doable.” Still the emphasis was on what was best for the family. “It was a bit nerve-wrecking to make the final decision,” she said, but after doing some soul-searching, the twins packed up to head out for the EOP Summer Program – BEP (Binghamton Enrichment Program).
“It was literally like boot-camp,” is how Polyakova described the BEP. because of its “no cell phone” policy and “rigorous schedule with little free time.”
“If I wanted to communicate with family, I had to email them, which was nice because I had to use other ways of communicating.” She also saw the benefits of the policy in terms of helping students build community. “I found that without the phone, you’re more involved and more present, you’re not attached to your phone constantly, and you can’t always have your laptop open,” said Polyakova. Polyakova shared that during BEP she learned a valuable lesson from then-EOP Director Randall Edouard. “To be on time is to be late, and to be early is to be on time. And I really stuck by that. You have 168 hours in a week, so you have time to do everything,” she said, and she used these lessons to plan out her academic schedule from that point forward.
Like many students, Polyakova believes in the importance of building a solid relationship, not only with her assigned counselor, but other counselors in the EOP department. “Wes was very open and a good listener, but I also developed a good relationship with Joanna,” she said. She felt a connection with Joanna because she found her to be “very intuitive and she has a lot of empathy and I could really connect with her and was able to really open up and be completely comfortable with her.” She also credits Joanna for “helping me guide my feeling and emotions while being very professional. She was able to help me maneuver my thoughts about things, but she would never sway me one way or another. She just taught me to look at both sides…so she helped a lot,” said Polyakova. And, for her, this is a relationship that she hopes to maintain well after her time at Binghamton.
Polyakova already has plans set for post-Binghamton. She will participate in the New York City Teaching Fellows program starting this fall, working as a special education teacher with a population of students for whom she has a passion. She has a clear understanding that there is more to this work than most realize. “Being a part of achieving their goals is so rewarding,” she said, of working with these students. She wants be more than a teacher; she wants to have an impact on the education system as a whole, not just as an educator, but also as someone who improves the system by implementing and improving programs for these students based upon knowing what they need.
“Administrators are implementing programs for these students without having worked with them, and that lack of consciousness can cause a setback for special needs clients,” Polyakova said. “We have to guard against trying to have them step into our world, because in order to truly assist them, we have to step in their world and gain a better understanding from that perspective.” And with educators such as Polykova joining the K-12 system, the approach taken to work with special needs students will be vastly improved.
When asked what words of wisdom she would share with an incoming student, Polyakova placed an emphasis on students finding the time to take care of themselves personally. “Taking care of your health will allow you to be successful. If one part of you is healthy, every part of you will be healthy, and you will develop a healthy relationship with your academics as well,” she said. Polyakova is president of Fit University whose purpose is to increase awareness regarding disordered eating and body image; promote healthy living through educational programming, tabling, speakers and presentations; and educate others about proper nutrition and fitness.
According to Polyakova, “If you can wake up early for an 8:30 a.m. class, you can wake up early every day to do something that you love or are passionate about.” And with this dynamic young lady leading the charge, we can become a healthy nation, both mentally and physically.
Previous Student Profiles
Margarita Vazquez, a senior from the Bronx, N.Y., is a graphic design major with a concentration in pre-medicine. She was born and raised in Puerto Rico until the age of 13. She attended four different high schools in Puerto Rico, Virginia and then the Bronx, where job opportunities were better for her parents who did not speak English. Despite these constant changes, Vazquez’s intention of going to college never wavered.
Prior to receiving acceptance to Binghamton University, Vazquez never really heard about Binghamton, which resulted in her applying to mostly CUNY schools and a few SUNY schools. Once accepted, she was still confused about Binghamton although her high school teachers and administrators were excited because she was only the second person from her high school to get accepted to Binghamton. “Others were saying, forget about the other schools you got accepted to, go to Binghamton because it’s such a great school,” she said. “At the same time, I still questioned it because if I wanted to go to medical school, why would I not go to Buffalo since it has a medical school, or Albany?” Luckily, Vazquez had teachers who went to Binghamton who gave her a run-down of the school. She also gained good insight from the son of an administrator who was also an EOP student. It was through these contacts that she was able to make the most informed decision.
For Vazquez, the connection to her EOP counselor has played an integral role in her success at Binghamton. In describing that relationship, she stated, “It’s more of a family type of relationship. There is a strong bond there. I don’t feel embarrassed or hesitate to come and talk with my counselor about my problems; there is no hesitation with that. I am thankful for the relationships I have built as a result of BEP. I don’t think I would have stayed at Binghamton if I did not have that support system because I would not be as aware of the resources available to me as a student. Without it, I probably would have transferred at some point.”
Vazquez has taken full advantage of her time at Binghamton University thus far by participating in variety of internships. With an interest in healthcare, she has completed a variety of volunteer experiences including at Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton, N.Y. As an active member of REACH (Real Education about College Health), she conducted outreach to peers around campus about health disparities and other issues such as alcohol abuse, sexual education and other issues faced by college students She is on the e-board for the Charles Drew Pre-Health Society, which provides support for underrepresented minorities interested in pre-health, and also supports students going to conferences such as the Student National Medical Association (SNMA). “As a student, I always wanted to be well-rounded. Although interested in pre-health (medical school), I wanted to develop other skills,” Vazquez said. “For example, I am a graphic artist now, and because college is such a resourceful place, I wanted to take full advantage of the opportunities presented to me. In the end, although they did not apply specifically to my career goals, they helped me to better myself as a professional who will be going into the workforce after college.”
When asked what advice she would give to new/continuing students, Vazquez said she wants to encourage students not to be afraid to reach out or to step outside of their comfort zone. “In order to succeed, you need to understand that it’s not just a “you” process. You need to depend on your support system and take advantage of the resources and challenge yourself. It may seem hard now, but when you look back, you can see how much you have gained.”
The next step for Vazquez is to take one year off to study for the MCAT exam, with the hopes of doing research in NYC. She is also interested in applying for AmeriCorps and working specifically with health-related aspects or youth development within the Native American community because it is a community that is impacted by health disparities such as alcoholism and mental illness, but does not have a lot of available resources to help combat these disparities.
Robert Edwards, a theatre major at Binghamton University, is a native of Syracuse, N.Y. The youngest of two children from a single-parent household, he knew that the path to college was going to require a great deal of both academic and financial support. So for Edwards, getting accepted to Binghamton University was just the lifeline he needed. “Getting accepted to Binghamton was one of the greatest days of my life,” he said. “During my senior year, I did not know what I was going to do with my life and so I was so grateful not only for my acceptance into Binghamton, but also into EOP. It relieved a lot of stress about how I would be able to afford to go to college.” Despite the fact that Binghamton had the reputation of being the public ivy, it was not what helped Edwards make his college decision. “As a high school student, all I researched was how much it cost and if it had my major. After getting accepted, I then found out that Binghamton has graduated many famous in the field that I am interested in.”
However, before he could fully matriculate into Binghamton, Edwards, like others before him, had to successfully complete the Binghamton Enrichment Program (BEP). And, although BEP was full of ups and downs, he found the overall experience to be beneficial. “It (BEP) definitely influenced who I am today,” he said. “I credit BEP for my work ethic and how I take on projects and how I go throughout my time at Binghamton, and for that I am so grateful for the experience. But going through it I hated it because my major was not reflected in the coursework we took.”
However, reflecting back on the experience post-BEP, Edwards was able to gain a different perspective. “Although BEP provided the social aspect of getting to know my peers and getting to know different clubs/organizations, I couldn’t see the benefits of those elements at the time,” he said. “But looking back, it made me a better person and it allowed me to adjust to the college environment before having to start classes in the fall. In high school, I could turn in work late because the teachers knew me, but I was now in an environment where the professors don’t know me and it was a wakeup call that I needed to get myself together and prioritize what needs to be done and set deadlines.”
Edwards credits two EOP counselors for helping him navigate Binghamton thus far. “I was blessed with the opportunity to be work with two of the most influential and inspirational people as my counselors - Wes Van Dunk (now retired) and now Josue Quinones.” For Edwards, building relationships with these individuals helped him learn not only how to build professional relationships, but also allowed him to be connected to alumni who have majored in his field. “It was because of Wes that I learned about an EOP alum who was coming to campus to give a workshop on acting. I had a chance to perform one of my pieces for Ruben Santiago Hudson (EOP ‘78) who provided me with feedback and critiques on what I can improve on for the future and better myself as an actor. Those relationships have allowed for networking opportunities that I might not have had otherwise,” he said.
Although only a sophomore, Edwards, a self-proclaimed theater nerd, has already made a name for himself at Binghamton. He has been an active participant in the Hinman Production Company (HPC) and Binghamton’s all-male acapella group; he has landed a lead role in one of Binghamton University’s Main Stage performances; he has performed for a variety of student clubs/organizations; and participated as a part of the Welcome Back Crew for freshmen and returning students. According to Edwards, the key to managing it all has been time management. “Being able to sit down and say to myself, this is important, this is not important, this is going to help me to graduate on time while this is simply extra-curricular, has been an important skill that I have developed,” he said. “Although I still struggle with drawing the line between fun and getting done what I need to get done and what I need to be successful in the future, once I started to understand the difference between the two, it became easier to make those choices; but it is still a struggle every day.”
When asked what advice he would want to provide new and continuing students about being successful at Binghamton, Edwards said, “Remain grateful and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Coming in as an EOP student, I personally felt that I needed to prove myself not only to the general admit students, but within the program itself. I needed to prove that I deserved to be here, so it was an internal competition that I was having with myself. It kind of broke me down and it was stressful. Once I realized that it was OK to ask for help and to utilize every resource available to get to where I needed to be, I came to understand that, in fact, that’s the way it should be. That’s the way to reach your goal; it shouldn’t be just you by yourself carrying everything on your back. Once I comprehended that, it opened so many doors. It allowed me to get to know other people as well as get to know more about myself and grow as a person.”
For Edwards, although he has some future goals he would like to accomplish — like directing his own show (in particular the play For Colored Girls) as a way to expose members of the college community to more diversity and to get more underrepresented minorities to give acting a shot, he is open to what God has in store for him. However, his ultimate goal is to open up a performing arts studio for underrepresented minorities with the goal of offering them opportunities to learn the craft — something he felt that he was missing coming into college. And with his drive and determination, reaching his goal is just a matter of time.
For Sherry Lam, the path to college was not easy. The daughter of Chinese immigrants, she is a first-generation college student and first-generation American. She is oldest of two children. Her brother is a freshman at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). And, because of the language barrier, she was often the person who had to run the household. “It was not easy balancing school with family since I had to be the translator for everything and I also had to pay the bills, schedule appointments, etc.,” she said. But rather than becoming bitter about the situation, she, like other EOP students, was able to identify the lesson learned from this experience when she shared, “Although it (translating and paying bills) was a lot for me, it helped me when I moved off campus as I already had experience doing these things.”Learning quickly the importance of balancing family expectations and academics, Lam was excited at the prospect of going away to college. Although Binghamton University was her dream school, she did not expect to get in. And, even when she did get in, she was skeptical. “I received my acceptance letter on April Fools’ Day, so I was like, is this a joke.”
For Lam, participating in the Binghamton Enrichment Program (BEP) was both academically challenging and personally fulfilling. “Trying to adjust to the rigorous schedule and the study hours was difficult, but it helped me to set my priorities in terms of studying for exams versus surfing the internet and hanging out with my friends,” she said. Because of this discipline and her desire to step outside of her comfort zone, Lam has been able to participate in activities that she might not otherwise have experienced. At the end of her sophomore year, she was the first EOP student to participate in the Summer Research Immersion (SRI) program at Binghamton, where she studied Parkinson’s disease. This research experience helped her gain a different understand of what research actually entails. “You are actually doing everything hands on and you have to understand what your project is about and be able to analyze data and write research papers,” she said. As a result of her participation in SRI, she was able to serve as an undergraduate TA for the Freshman Research Immersion (FRI), which was a new program for freshman funded by a National Institutes of Health grant, where she mentored other students (some EOP) and oversaw their research projects, while continuing her own individual research.
In the summer 2016, Lam also served as a research intern for Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, where she studied how heroine-induced molecular disturbances on acetyl-H3 impacts monkey brain tissue. All of these experiences allowed her to gain practical experience in the area of research as a career — something she would never have considered had she not stepped out of her comfort zone and tried something new.
When asked what advice she would give to a new or current students regarding how to be successful at Binghamton, Lam offered the following perspective: “Success is definitely never a straight or smooth road; it’s filled with hills you have to climb over or holes that you may fall into. To overcome these challenges, you have to learn to pick yourself up, persevere and face these obstacles with determination.”
After completing her degree, Lam will take a year off to decide what the best direction will be for her future. Currently, she is leaning toward pursuing a PhD to conduct research in vision science, in particular because her father was diagnosed with glaucoma and she wants to better understand the disease in hope of finding a way to better treat or prevent it.
Jairo Rosario, a junior majoring in biological sciences at Binghamton University, has never allowed barriers to prevent him from going after his dreams. Born in the Dominican Republic, Rosario and his nuclear family settled in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, N.Y., just five and a half years ago. The oldest of three children, Rosario is the first in his family to go to college. As such, he thinks of himself as the foundation of his family, especially given that his parents did not complete college. “Due to circumstances in the country and with my family at that time, my dad was never able to complete his degree. I’m on a mission now to finish up what he couldn’t finish,” he said.
Despite being a good student in high school, Rosario did not believe that he had a great understanding of college. Luckily for him, he had peers who attended Binghamton and thus he learned from counselors and teachers that it was a good school. And when he visited the campus on a college tour, despite Binghamton being the last college visit, he immediately felt a connection. Determined to go away to college, Rosario wanted to challenge himself to better his English, and he knew that he would be forced to do so if he went away to college. “My high school courses were mostly bilingual for the first three years, and that did not help much because I wasn’t being forced to learn English, which I knew I was going to need for college,” he said.
Rosario was excited about being accepted to Binghamton as an EOP student. “The purpose of EOP is to take students who are somewhat dedicated and provide them with the resources they did not get in high school so that they can evolve throughout college,” he said. He credits a lot of that development to his participation the EOP Binghamton Enrichment Program (BEP). It was in BEP that Rosario realized just how much ground he needed to make up academically. “For the first few weeks I lagged behind,” he said, “and I started to doubt whether or not college was for me.” However, after a few weeks of adjustment, he was able to turn things around and successfully complete the program.
Rosario acknowledges that BEP’s “no cell phone” rule helped him to adjust both academically and socially. “By not having the phone, it pushed us to seek support from each other,” he said. “We were all going through the same struggle and this allowed us get really close to each other. So, those four weeks, although they don’t seem like much, made a difference. Because of BEP, we came into freshman year with a family already. You already knew 130 students; you were not lost when you came back for the fall.”
For Rosario, building a relationship with his EOP counselor has been important as well. “Our relationship goes well beyond just talking about classes. I go there for moral support when I need it or just to talk about life in general. And, because of building that relationship, I feel like she really knows me well,” he said. With such a solid foundation, Rosario felt comfortable branching out and trying new things and he is very involved on campus. He is a member of the pre-health fraternity (Phi Delta Epsilon), a front-desk staff member for the EOP/SSS tutorial center and has participated in SMDEP (Summer Medical Dental Enrichment Program), a six-week summer program at Columbia that provided an introduction to dentistry. Because the SMDEP program was located in Washington Heights, Rosario was able to be close to home.
When asked what advice he would give to new or current students, Rosario shared that he believes a lot of students enter college with a mindset that freshman year is a blow-off year. “Every year in college counts when you are in these competitive programs,” he said. “So, don’t waste time and miss opportunities that are in front of you.“College is not just grades,” he added. “You have to do other things. Use your summer and winter breaks effectively. Look for opportunities to learn more about your field of interest.” EOP students are sometimes intimidated by students who come from top high schools in New York (e.g. AP credits, college credits, etc.). Rosario said not to be intimidated by that. “Whatever the high school didn’t give you, EOP (and programs like SMDEP) can help you to make up over time. That is why it is important to use all of the resources EOP makes available to you.”