More than financial aid: HEOP at the Mount

by · March 21, 2018

The Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) is a program that provides academic and financial support to students who otherwise would not be able to attend college. The program, however, is competitive and looks for motivated and economically-disadvantaged students to provide access to a higher education. Not only does this program pave a path to success and prepare students for the real world, it also helps build connections and emphasizes the importance of the community.

As an HEOP student at Mount Saint Mary College, I can honestly say that the program has offered life-changing opportunities I couldn’t receive anywhere else. I’m currently the sophomore representative and chair of Current Events for our Leadership Council, where we organize community outreach and diversity awareness events. Some of our community outreach events include going to local high schools and The Boys and Girls Club of Newburgh to guest speak and provide information about HEOP and college preparation. As a Newburgh resident, I feel the importance of building bridges and connecting the youth in the surrounding area by offering them options. We’ve also collaborated with the Latino Student Union to provide educational events about DACA and plan to collaborate with the Black Student Union for Black History month.

The HEOP Class of 2020

Some of my favorite experiences with HEOP include the Summer Academic Institute and Advocacy Day. It’s required for every freshman in HEOP to complete a rigorous summer program that lasts 5 weeks, which helps prepare for the first semester of college. Throughout the summer, I was able to really get to know my classmates since we did everything together. We had early mornings and late nights, a pile of essays due every night, and a strict schedule we had to follow. Failure was not an option. Despite the challenges we faced, it only made us grow closer, and after sharing our stories of how we got to that very moment, we all respected each other. We realized that we beat all odds and proved we weren’t another statistic. For many of us, it was a big deal to have someone give us a chance to pursue our dreams because without the program, our chances of completing it were non-existent. We entered our first semester with a new family, a head start on credits, and confidence.

HEOP has helped continuously build my leadership skills, one instance being when they hired me as a resident peer counselor for the incoming freshman class last summer. After going through the summer program myself, I was able to mentor the incoming freshman class after mine. It was a privilege witnessing bonds being made the same way my class had done, and being able to compare the growth made within a year.

Since we acknowledge the importance of our group, we also participate in HEOP Advocacy Day. Last year, we took a trip to Albany where we met students from different parts of NYS and listened and shared our stories. It was evident that this program was more than financial aid; it meant hope for many. Aside from providing additional tutoring, mentoring, and one-on-one meetings to ensure success for each student, they provide a home away from home.

HEOP has given me unforgettable experiences and memories that I’ll always be grateful for. They gave me a chance, and I’m making the most of it.

Giselle Martinez, Class of 2020, is a Social Science major from Newburgh, NY. Learn more about HEOP at the Mount here.