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A Journey to Success From West Africa to Western New York

    Buffalo State students spell out EOP outside on concrete walkway.

    There are many students out there who show the potential for college success but may not have the preparation to make it through the admissions cycle. For these students, the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) is here to provide them with guidance and assistance in college to help them reach the finish line and earn that degree they seek.

    In 2017, SUNY is celebrating 50 years of success of the EOP. In that time, thousands of students have found a way to a college degree that they didn’t think they had a chance at. All of those students have gone on to find more success in their lives after college.

    We’ve found a number of EOP students who wanted to share their stories of success on how they found a path through college and how their lives were changed because of it. Today, we have Mohamed Koanda, a transplant from West Africa who is working to graduate from SUNY Buffalo State College next year.

    Mohamed first learned about Buffalo State’s EOP program through his high school Track and Field Coach and the Armory College Prep held in New York City. Unsure of where, or if, he would go to college, learning about the EOP opened doors for him that he did not know were there. Looking back on it, he says, “The Buffalo State EOP program made me the type of student I am right now. It made me strong academically and confidently.”

    Mohamed Koanda, student at buffalo state

    Mohamed Koanda, left, stands with one of the EOP advisors at Buffalo State.

    But the journey to college wasn’t always so direct for Mohamed. After graduating high school, he was quite hesitant about the jump to college. Why?

    “As a first generation student, with my lack of experience in education and the language barrier, I was afraid that I was not going to be able to perform at my best potential. All my life I found myself doing a lot of things on my own with little to no support. I have only been in the Unites States of America for five years. I was born and raised in Burkina Faso, which is in West Africa. I’m the only one in my entire family to attend and soon graduate from college. However, the Buffalo State EOP program showed me that they are well aware of my situation and they know exactly what to do with students like myself. They offered me an EOP summer program designed especially to prepare me for school. After that, my level of confidence had gradually increased knowing that with the EOP Staff by my side, I can do this.”

    One of the key components of the EOP is the support structure provided to students to help them get through school and life without unnecessary distraction. Students within the EOP program are offered a counselor to watch over them and make sure the correct classes are being taken and that they don’t fall behind their coursework. These counselors can help students find academic tutoring, financial aid support, and general advice for anything that comes up in life. Mohamed was sure to use whatever help he could get to get through challenges. “I took advantage of the tutoring for sure. To be honest, sometimes I even ran out of money to print my papers for classes, but the EOP office made sure that we EOP students always have free printing.”

    This type of journey is common among EOP students. Regardless of the difficulty at the beginning, success is reached at the end of the journey by these students. When asked to share his story with other potential students, Mohamed was pleased to do so.

    “I would say to others, ‘trust the EOP Program.’ The program is well designed to help students like us. I think that the best way for one to help solve a problem is to have experienced the problem themselves. The Buffalo State EOP staff and counselor have walked in our shoes before and they understand every single situation we students encounter in college. These dedicated staff members are the right people to help us.”

    Taras Kufel

    Written by Taras Kufel

    Taras Kufel is the Manager of Digital Engagement at the State University of New York.

    May 16, 2017

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