Educational Opportunity Fund Scholar Success Stories Honored At Ceremony

LAKEWOOD — Stories of triumph over adversity highlighted a student awards ceremony at at Georgian Court University this morning, where 831 economically disadvantaged Educational Opportunity Fund scholars from throughout New Jersey were recognized for their achievements.

Many students overcame long odds to succeed.

Yanira Torres of Lakewood is the youngest of 10 children and the only member of her family who has graduated high school or college to date. She was forced to leave Ocean County College in 1995 due to the illness and death of her mother and the need to care for her own daughter. Persistent in her endeavors to complete her education, Yanira was finally able to completed an A.A. degree in Liberal Arts in 2009. She transferred to Kean University where she has earned a 3.808 cumulative GPA to date, and will receive her B.A. degree in Psychology in May 2013.  A single parent and mother of four daughters ages 16, 12, 10 and 18 months, Yanira intends to undertake graduate studies in the future.

Michelle Spallone is a non-traditional student at Union County College and a single mother of one child. She grew up in Maple Shade and graduated from Palmyra High School in 1995. She has been on the Dean’s List for two semesters. In addition, she received several letters of commendation from EOF for her academic excellence. Spallone is currently a member of the Women’s Leadership Group at Union Country College. She volunteered at the Science Olympiad for high school and middle school students as a proctor. Spallone also served as a peer tutor in the Academic Learning Center for about one year. Thereafter, she became a student ambassador for the Counseling Center where she currently works. She plans to transfer to Rutgers University and major in Clinical Psychology and work in the field of Geriatrics or Forensics.

Angelica Alvarado-Lazo of Woodbridge came to Middlesex County College in the fall of 2009 as a non-traditional student. She achieved Dean’s List status twice and was inducted to Alpha Mu Gamma (National Collegiate Foreign Languages Honor Society) and Phi Theta Kappa (National Honor Society). In addition to her academic success, Angelica participated fully in campus life. She served as the president of Alpha Mu Gamma, the Italian Club and as treasurer of the College Center Program Board. After completing her degree, Angelica plans on transferring to Rutgers University-New Brunswick to earn her bachelor’s degree in Spanish with a focus on English-Spanish and Spanish-English translation. Angelica’s goal is to pursue a career working in the court system providing translation services to those in need. Angelica is married and is the parent to one adult child.

Andrew Binger will be graduating from Drew University with a degree in English and a double minor in Spanish and Theatre Arts. In his spare time, Binger volunteered with the Drew University Honduras Project, the Sandy Relief effort, and he has worked with the homeless in Washington, D.C. An honor student, Binger was raised by a single mother and plans to pursue his doctoral degree in English Literature.

After her mother died, Janice Jones, of Camden, interrupted her studies to help her younger brother. When her academic career resumed, she was determined to fulfill her lifelong dream of being a nurse. She will graduate this year from the Rutgers College of Nursing and plans to move on to graduate study in pediatric/psychiatric nursing.

“The EOF scholars are living proof that all students can achieve, given support and opportunity,” said Secretary of Higher Education Rochelle Hendricks, whose office administers the EOF program. “As we serve an increasingly diverse population, programs such as the Educational Opportunity Fund, and the life-changing work done by EOF staffers, will continue to grow in importance, and I am proud to celebrate their success.”

“Many of the students receiving awards are the first in their families to attend college,” said Assistant Secretary Glenn Lang.

“We are all very proud of the students in the EOF family,” said State EOF Program Director Audrey Bennerson. “The success of the students is due to their own hard work, and the dedication and attention to detail paid by the program directors and staff on 48 campuses around the State.”

Created in 1968, New Jersey’s EOF program has gained national recognition as one of the most comprehensive state-supported efforts to expand access to higher education. Campus-based programs provide financial assistance and services that improve student retention and graduation rates. The program also encourages participants to pursue advanced degrees.

More than 12,400 undergraduate students are enrolled in the EOF program. Approximately 10 percent of all first-time, full-time freshmen enter New Jersey’s public and independent higher education institutions through the EOF program.
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Two lists are attached. The first, labeled “Spotlight,” highlights the achievements of award recipients from EOF programs around the State. A second document lists all of the student awardees who granted permission for their names to be released.

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