Educational Opportunity Program commemorates 50 years at Sac State

The program is hosting a number of events throughout October


Nijzel Dotson

Sac State Alumni tell current students about their experiences at EOP’s Open Mic Event Monday. The event was part of the celebration of the program’s 50th anniversary.

Nijzel Dotson

Sacramento State’s Educational Opportunity Program is using the month of October to commemorate its 50-year anniversary.

The program has scheduled a number of events in celebration of the milestone, such as an open house, a paint night, an open mic event and an anniversary gala to cap off the festivities Nov. 9.

 EOP was established in 1968 following the events of the civil rights movement in order to “provide access (to education) to low-income and underrepresented students,” according to their history page. The theme of the events is “Unprecedented Success and Innovation.”

Jerry Blake, the senior associate director of EOP, said that Sac State’s program is historic due to the fact that it was not only the school’s first equity program, but it was one of the few programs piloted before it was required for all California State University schools. 

“We’ve been fine-tuning our services to better work with the students and progress with their needs,” Blake said. “We have grown beyond a simple grass-roots approach and (are trying) to be more involved and hands-on with students and their situations.” 

The program offers academic advising and support as well as social and economic counseling, according to Blake.

Other services include grants for first-generation students, programs for transfer students and “learning communities,” which are groups of EOP students that are put into the same classes together to study with one another.

“Learning communities allow EOP students to learn as a cohort, develop new relationships with their peers, and to receive free tutoring, ” Blake said.

James Whitcomb Jr., a senior majoring in child development, transferred to Sac State as a first-generation college student.  

“I had the TV version of college, having fun, going to parties, being the popular guy on campus, but I didn’t understand how to network, the importance of internships and being involved in your community,” Whitcomb said. “EOP is important because it connected me with individuals and professionals that have traveled similar journeys to what I’m traveling right now, thanks to EOP I know that I’m not the first and won’t be the last, and throughout the whole process I’ll have support.”

Whitcomb said that the learning communities especially helped him with his success. 

“I looked at the learning communities as a pointless class at the start, but I didn’t realize the impact it would have on me later on,” Whitcomb said. “It initially got me my first group of friends on campus and it brought all the resources to me, I didn’t have to go out and search for them, I was able to choose which ones I wanted to pursue.”

Whitcomb said EOP helped him secure his first job at Sac State during his first semester. He now works as a student program assistant for the Student Academic Success and Educational Equity Program, which is the umbrella that EOP and all of the other equity programs on campus fall under.

EOP’s Associate Vice President Marcellene Watson-Derbigny said that the 50th anniversary means that decades have gone into student success.

“For me, five decades of EOP means there have been people that have fought on the front lines to make sure that education is an attainable goal,” Watson-Derbigny said. “Fighting for their communities, fighting for what’s right and we can celebrate all the hard work that’s gone into helping students.”

Watson-Derbigny has been a part of the program for 25 years. 

In regards to the program’s future goals, she said, “we have a continued goal of providing access to education, a continued goal of helping our students transition from high school to collegiate life, and an ongoing goal of making sure that once they’re here they are engaged both academically and socially.”

Whitcomb encouraged students to consider joining EOP.

“You can only do so much alone, in America we love the idea of being able to say we did it by ourselves, but there’s no need to make it harder on ourselves,” Whitcomb said. “By joining EOP you gain a team that helps you figure out what the next steps are, how to move forward, and where to go when you enter college. You gain a team of people who want the best for you.”

This story was updated on Sunday, Oct. 20 to properly reflect the date of the EOP gala as Saturday, Nov. 9.  A previous version stated the date as Friday, Nov. 8.