by Erica Towne, Santa Clara Weekly
The Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS) is a statewide agency, but for students at Santa Clara’s Mission College it’s often the difference between furthering their education or dropping out of school entirely.
“Most of [our students] are taking anywhere from 12 to 18 units and also they’re working upwards of 20 hours a week,” said Amanda Marshall, EOPS Program Specialist at Mission College.
Marshall says one-third of the students are learning English as their second language and many are also parents. EOPS provides students with support they can’t get through financial aid.
“The way that we do it is through holistic wrap around services that really take away the insular costs that are lots of times inhibiting or impact our students from just being in class,” said Ajani Byrd, EOPS Director. “There’s lots of us that have the privilege of not having to worry about our next meal, or we have enough money to put gas into the car. A lot of our students don’t, so coming to class, it’s a process to just get here.”
“I love this program so much because we do such good work,” said Marshall. “We provide our students with roughly $1,200 in aid every academic year…They get grants, gas cards and survival kits full of school supplies.
“They have a lot of different types of aid,” continued Marshall. “But the amazing part is to hear them speak about their counselor and the connections that they had in the office, or that they built with other students. They come back years later to see their counselor.”
For EOPS student Bhumi Patel, it’s the counselor that’s really made all the difference.
“Because of my counselor, I think my journey here has been incredibly smooth,” said Patel. “It wasn’t about: Here’s the classes that you need to take. It was more about: What do you want to do? What’s your goal for coming at Mission? Based on that goal, he helped me create an [education] plan.”
“Students who are part of EOPS, they are more likely to transfer, more likely to get a degree and they’re more likely to get a certificate than the general population,” said Byrd.
It’s working for Patel. Thanks to her participation in EOPS, Patel is set to graduate from Mission College and is currently applying to transfer to a four-year college in Southern California.
EOPS started at the state level in 1969 and first opened at Mission College in 1973. Since then, it’s helped thousands of Mission College students work toward two-year or four-year degrees.
“What’s unfortunate is that we can’t serve everybody,” said Byrd. “Our EOPS program is impacted…The philosophy that we have here is we’re going to take a smaller number of students but help them get to the end goal. More about retention and persistence versus other programs could be about access, saying we want as many students as possible to receive a service.”