EOP students elected to the SA aim to help their peers find belonging at Binghamton
Two student leaders in the 2022–23 Student Association (SA) administration — President-elect Nia Johnson and incoming Executive Vice President Daniel Rocabado — credit the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) for giving them the tools they needed to excel at Binghamton.
Rocabado, who will be a senior in the fall, is from Queens. Majoring in philosophy, politics and law, he was inspired to come to Binghamton after his sister, Gabriela Avila ’16, MPA ’17, an EOP alumna who now works for the United States government, found success after her time at Binghamton University.
“She was really a big inspiration to me,” Rocabado said. “She taught me about a lot of the resources available at Binghamton, too. She’s the one who told me about BEP [Binghamton Enrichment Program], and that really opened up my eyes to the resources here. She always told me about how in Binghamton you’ll notice there is a space for multicultural students, but you will always feel like it is different from home. We come from an environment where it’s all POC [people of color] so it does feel different. She worked for the Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development, and she really tried to provide resources for POC students. So that’s something that I try to reflect in my work [in the SA].”
Johnson will also be a senior in fall 2022. A human development major, she also participated in BEP, a program that she said helped her get a head start at Binghamton, both academically and socially.
“Move-in day was one of my favorite memories simply because I was able to see all the friends that I’d made over the summer,” she said. “So after we moved in we all hung out on that first day, and I really felt like these are my friends — this is my community.”
Now, as part of the incoming SA administration, Johnson and Rocabado want to make changes that will help all students be able to find equal opportunities and success.
One of Johnson’s goals as SA president is to reinstate a program that she said helped her on her path to success: the Students of Color and Faculty of Color Luncheon.
“I went to it when I was a first-year student,” Johnson said. She was struck by seeing other students who looked like her in her area of study. “Imagine how students of color could feel coming onto this campus knowing that there are [more students like them in their departments]. I think it would make them feel much more comfortable in a classroom.”
Rocabado wants all students to feel like they belong at Binghamton, and one of the ways he wants to do this is by making sure that the SA is a safe space for students and student organizations.
“One thing that I want to provide is making sure that they know their voices are heard and that the SA is not here to be combative or that we’re just here to fix mistakes,” Rocabado said. “We’re here to provide students with services from the day they start at Binghamton to the day they finish.”
Johnson also believes that the role of the SA is important in providing resources and opportunities to students.
“We were all elected on what we ran on, which was that we actually wanted to be voices for the students to the administration,” Johnson said. “So having that understanding, when we actually take our positions, is the goal — to just continue advocating for students.”
Outside of the SA, Johnson is also a resident assistant on campus. When she graduates, she wants to become a public school teacher to give back to communities and neighborhoods like the one she grew up in.
“I plan on becoming a third-grade teacher,” Johnson said. “In New York City, third-grade test scores are used to determine whether or not a student is to be successful later on in their academic career. I want to become a teacher to help bridge that gap, and then ultimately work my way up into educational policy.”
For Rocabado, who wants to work in the ever-growing field of social media, finding a place can be difficult, but he has some words of motivation for newer Binghamton students who might be having a hard time finding how they fit in, especially during the transition back to in-person life and learning.
“Don’t be scared,” Rocabado said. “I know a lot of students struggle finding their place here, but I just want students, especially EOP students, to know that they have a space here. They fought for that space, and they’re here for a reason.”