Student advocates for continued support of EOP
Since 1968, the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) at Binghamton University has been making higher education possible for disadvantaged students through advocacy as well as academic, financial, personal and cultural support that extends from the time of admission, through graduation and beyond. EOP students often overcome adverse circumstances in their backgrounds to achieve excellence at Binghamton.
Anta Tall, a first-year Harpur College student from Yonkers, N.Y., is one of these exceptional EOP students. The program offers her constant guidance and support.
“Being a first-generation college and high school student — it was all new to me,” she said. “When you’re the first in your family to do something, you don’t really have anyone to turn to, so for me this is a great stepping stone.” Tall is especially appreciative of the support she receives from her counselor Joanna Cardona-Lozada and EOP Director Karima Legette.
Legette nominated Tall to speak at this year’s EOP Advocacy Day, an annual event when SUNY EOP students and staff call on state legislators to continue funding and support for the EOP in the New York state budget. In a typical year, they travel to Albany, but this year the event was virtual.
Tall stood out to Legette as an ideal candidate to speak at Advocacy Day for several reasons. For one, she participated in EOP’s first virtual Binghamton Enrichment Program (BEP) for new students this past summer and excelled despite the challenges of the new format. Although she began studying remotely this year, she has made connections with the University, largely through EOP. Additionally, Tall served as a member of the Youth Advisory Council for her district legislator, Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, during high school.
Legette believed that Tall’s experience with the virtual summer program would be a great way to show how the EOP is helping students in spite of public health restrictions such as social distancing being enforced because of the pandemic. “I wanted Anta to share her experience at Advocacy Day to emphasize the many challenges our students are battling, especially this year during the coronavirus pandemic,” said Legette. With the comprehensive support of the EOP, our students are persisting, maintaining and excelling through it.”
Along with other SUNY students, educators and elected officials,Tall participated on a panel on March 11, sharing her personal story and expanding on all of the things that have been made possible because of her involvement in the EOP.
EOP has helped her financially, academically and socially she said. The program eases the financial burden she and her family face through book stipends and scholarships and offers personalized tutoring that Tall uses for pre-calculus and biology. The social aspect of EOP is also a support. “EOP offers a ‘home away from home,’ and those of us within EOP often refer to the program and its students as a big family,” Tall said. She credits EOP for helping make her adjustment into college life much less stressful. And because she found the welcome she received during BEP last summer so helpful, she is excited to serve as a BEP Peer Counselor for next year’s incoming EOP class.
In the future, Tall wants to work at a hospital and stay at Binghamton University to earn her Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. She knows that she can achieve all of these goals with the support of EOP and the tools they have given her to succeed.
Most importantly, Tall wants to continue to make her single father proud and set a positive example for her younger brother. Both her father and brother are huge influences in her life and motivate her to reach her goals every single day.
Tall’s advice to other first-generation students is simple: be nicer to yourself. “We can be our own worst critics,” she said. “Imposter syndrome may affect some of us because we are the first in our families to experience higher education. Some of us may be too hard on ourselves for little things, may not know who or where to turn to or may even doubt our capabilities. But I would just say to stay motivated because we have it inside of us to succeed!”