From offering book grants and meal vouchers to organizing field trips to Dodger games, Extended Opportunity Programs and Services is continuing to push underprepared students to succeed at City College.
“Our only job here is to help and support the students,” said Paloma Arnold, director of EOPS. “I want students to take advantage of us.”
EOPS was implemented into the California Community College system in 1969, and since then the system has grown to support over 1,000 students every year at City College, Arnold said. It aims to “provide above-and-beyond support services to eligible, academically and economically under-prepared students to achieve their educational goals,” according to its mission statement.
Students enrolled in the program are given $400 grants for books, $100 grants for meal vouchers, waivers for their college applications, and priority registration in classes.
Although all students are welcome to apply and participate in the program, many of its benefits are reserved for academically disadvantaged students that meet the criteria established by the state of California.
MaryLou Hernandez, a student program advisor for EOPS, said that most of the people accepted into the program are first generation college students that had a GPA below 2.5 in high school. Hernandez herself is a former EOPS student.
“My parents wanted me to go to college, but they didn’t know how to guide me,” Hernandez said. “If it wasn’t for this program I wouldn’t have known how to create a professional email or how to complete my FAFSA.”
Richard Burton, another former EOPS student said the program “offered a life-changing portal.” Burton now tutors to give back to the program, and he attributes much of his success to his time in EOPS because it offered him an opportunity to attend and graduate from UCSB.
Burton and Hernandez are among 40 former EOPS students that now work at City College and play a role in making students feel comfortable with the program. “They understand where you’re coming from,” said Rafael Castro, a current EOPS student.
EOPS offers field trips and workshops throughout the year, which could involve anything from a class on how to use pipeline to a tour of a college campus.
“A lot of students in EOPS had never been out of Santa Barbara,” Arnold said. “It’s a way to encourage students to think about different universities.”
Arnold admitted that the field trip the students really love is the one to Dodger Stadium. That trip, along with zip lining and a visit to the Griffith Observatory, are just a few examples of the opportunities offered by the EOPS Running Start program, a six-week transitionary program for graduating high school students.
Even though many students join the program for the activities, there are other elements of EOPS that make it impactful.
“It’s the little things, but overall it’s the encouragement,” said Carmelita Cuellar, an EOPS student.
In addition to the financial support and extracurricular opportunities, the EOPS office provides students with additional counseling, access to its computer lab, and a personal graduation ceremony that allows students to celebrate with their family and friends in the program.
“I’d love for more people to come in and see if they’re eligible,” Hernandez said. “We get a lot of students that unfortunately wait until the last moment.”
The EOPS office is located on the second floor of the Student Services Building.