Jorge_Arturo_Reyes.jpg Jorge Arturo Reyes   |   Graduation Year: 1985   |   Undergraduate Degree: Bachelor of Arts
Undergraduate Majors: Spanish and Communication Studies   |   Advanced Degrees: Master of Arts, Education

I am forever beholden to EOP! As a poor, former ESL, first-generation, under-prepared, special admit student, entering a CSU campus for the first time was both terrifying and rewarding. While my parents’ dream was realized, my first university experience as a person of color was a nightmare. I doubted my ability, felt I didn’t belong, and was convinced failure was inevitable. I silently believed those who doubted me, and feared those who mocked my admission were right.

At EOP, I met faculty, staff, and students of color, and for the first time, I felt at ease among the diversity. Mexican, African-American, Asian, and White, we bonded as EOP students. The EOP counselors’ wisdom and cultural understanding created a multicultural community; a family. Their encouragement and high expectations inspired me to earn two Bachelor of Arts degrees, a Master of Arts degree, and a doctorate. Their compassion moved me to teach and their regard for equity, diversity, and community induced me to become a community college CEO. Here I passionately serve underrepresented and marginalized students by confronting institutional racism and sexism to remove barriers and promote academic success and opportunity.

From undergraduate special admit student to doctorate degree recipient, EOP has been the foundation and catalyst for my success. The abilities, humility and confidence I learned through EOP have forged my character, my life path, and my professional success. undefined

Rafael_Ceja_Ayala.jpg Rafael Ceja Ayal   |   Graduation Year: 2018   |   Undergraduate Degree: Bachelor of Arts
Undergraduate Major: Mathematics   |   Up Next: Ph.D in Mathematics at Purdue University, starting Fall 2018

At a young age when I lived in Mexico, I did not see anything beyond working in the fields in my future. I could only harvest fruits and vegetables, but little did I know, I was going to harvest hearts and minds through numbers. Noticing the many disadvantages students of color face, made me realize that I want to be a resource for them as a professor of mathematics. Nothing changed me more than moving to the United States seven years ago; leaving half of my life in Mexico, and trying to recreate the other half here was a challenge I faced every single day.

When I arrived, I saw how the education system oppressed my community and did not allow us to succeed. Witnessing and experiencing this system reminded me that I have a responsibility to my community. Obtaining a Ph.D. in mathematics is the perfect path to invest in education of marginalized communities and the success of socioeconomically disadvantaged students in the future. Throughout my life, I have learned to constantly adapt to new environments and situations. This constant change has molded me into a confident and resilient individual who sees his own potential and growth and will use it to benefit others.

My journey has not been easy, and I did not get to where I am today by myself. I want to thank all the individuals who have helped me to this point. I am a product of their hard work, constant support, and wise advice. Those people have changed me and because of them, I am what I am today.

I am part of programs that inculcate perseverance and resilience to students from underrepresented and marginalized communities. The first program that comes to mind when I think about college is the Education Opportunity Program (EOP). When I think about EOP, I think about the very beginning of my career as a mathematician, educator, and researcher. It was because of EOP that I started early in college. I started by attending Summer Bridge where I took summer classes and made long-term friendships. I connected with faculty who became my mentors. EOP provided me the opportunity to continue growing socially, academically, and professionally. It was the bridge I needed to transition from high school to college.

EOP gave me the mentorship I needed to keep achieving different goals in my career as a mathematician. With EOP, I developed important skills to serve the community in multiple ways such as teaching, volunteering and researching. EOP pushed the boundaries and took me out of my comfort zone. Learning that I was capable of different things motivates me to give back to my community.

I always saw myself as an educator. However, my passion for buildings introduced me to engineering. It was because of the EOP classes that I got to taste a little bit of engineering. By taking these classes, I realized engineering was not for me. Then I completely got to know mathematics. I taught and I saw the rewarding sensation of teaching. Shortly after this, I realized that mathematics was more than teaching. I started to involve myself in research in various areas in mathematics such as combinatorics, number theory, and algebraic number theory. I had mentors who inspired greatness in the discipline and me. I spent two summers doing research at Missouri State University and CSU Channel Islands. Later in my career, I became part of the McNair Scholars and the National Science Foundation's Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Programs where I continued learning more about mathematics. These experiences made me realize how badly I wanted to attend graduate school, and for such reasons and more, I will be starting a doctorate program in mathematics at Purdue University in the fall of 2019.

I am surprised and happy and humbled that I have gotten so far in such a short time. I moved to the United States eight years ago. I did not know English and was not familiar with this educational system. By the time I was a senior in high school I was on my way to college with a full ride scholarship up to my doctorate program. However, that was not the biggest accomplishment. My hard work is my biggest accomplishment. I am not the brightest mind alive. However, I do see the potential of my work and how this can change many perspectives. I am proud of who I have become. I left my fear behind. I did not care about other people’s negative perspectives. I believe in myself and a few people believed in me, and that is all I needed. My message to EOP students and alumni is to be you, because you are brave. The most powerful weapons in this world are your family and loved ones, and your mind, because it can change things for the better. EOP has helped me accomplish my today because it served as a bridge to connect my yesterday to today. I am very grateful for all the opportunities it has provided me with.

I have a story for you. I was told many times that I could not do it. I was expected to fail many times but I proved many people wrong. Remember, your hard work speaks for you. You have already made it this far! Do not ever limit yourself. You are capable of so much. Be brave, be bold, and kind because life is a dream we are allowed to dream when we are awake.

Student Highlights

meganthomas.jpg Megan Thomas   |   Degree Objective: BS in Communication Sciences and Disorders   |   Hometown: Antioch, CA

When I think about EOP, I see the opportunities and success I have made here at CSU Sacramento. There were a lot of factors in my life that held me back. Financially, my family struggled to make ends meet and college seemed like a distant possibility. EOP gives me the resources and potential to succeed in all areas of my educational journey. I see a brighter future now that I have been given the resources to set me up for success and set higher goals for myself.

I recently took on a minor in Deaf Studies along with my Communication Sciences and Disorders major, working diligently on 19 units, was offered an internship, and achieved a 3.869 GPA my first semester at California State University, Sacramento.

EOP has opened doors for me that I thought were never within my reach. There are many events that help students achieve academically, but prepare us for a professional career. EOP has also highly encouraged me to meet with academic advisors, which has accelerated my desire to meet higher academic goals. I have pushed myself academically because of EOP since there is a strong sense of support within the program. Without EOP, I would not have the academic resources or drive that I have today as I further my education and continue to take risks and set high goals for myself.

A word of advice for future EOP students would be to get involved in the program. There are so many opportunities that EOP offers and participating is just one step to success. Also, EOP is like a stepping stone in getting involved on campus; EOP makes it easier to get involved in other programs. There are many different leadership positions offered within EOP that can me lead to greater opportunities if I take the chance.

Jasmine_Jacquez.jpg Jasmine Jacquez   |   Degree Objective: B.A., Child Development with a minor in Counseling   |   Hometown: Camarillo, CA

My name is Jasmine Jacquez. I’m 22 years old and I was born and raised in Camarillo, located in Ventura County. It is a very small community in Southern California. I am the first in my family to go to college and transferred to Sacramento State in Fall 2017.

My story has come full circle. I was first introduced to my instructional student assistant (ISA) in Fall 2017, when I was enrolled in an EOP Learning Community class for first- semester transfer students in EOP. My greatest achievement in that course was being honored as the “Most Inspirational Student” by my class. Being in an EOP learning community was a great resource and of great support to me. Additional EOP resources that have been especially beneficially to me are the various workshops hosted by EOP. I have learned to write a resume and cover letter, learned what business attire to wear to job interviews, and will soon attend mock interviews so I can practice professional interview skills. Being in this learning community gave me the resources required to be successful here at Sac State, and it also connected me to a community of students that I can relate to. We are all learning how to become academically successful! I am proud to be a Sacramento State Hornet….Stingers up!

omarrios.jpg Omar Rios   |   Degree Objective: B.A., Criminal Justice   |   Hometown: St. Helena, CA

EOP has provided me with an opportunity I never thought would be possible. EOP has supported me since the day my journey began in the summer of 2015. EOP has provided me support in countless ways: Summer Bridge, Sophomore Bridge, faculty mentoring, educational workshops, educational advising, volunteer opportunities, and much more. I would have never learned of all the resources that are available to me as a student without the guidance I have been provided from EOP. Having the opportunity to meet with an EOP advisor or counselor whenever I need help is very rewarding because I know if I need help I can go to them.

Some advice I would provide for students is to schedule meetings with counselors and make sure you are on track for graduation. Meetings with advisors and counselors do not always have to be about academics, they can be about any concerns or questions. I would also advise future EOP students to volunteer as much as they can. Volunteering will strengthen communication and interpersonal skills including networking. Eventually that can lead students towards an internship or employment opportunity.

evelynlievanos.jpg Evelyn J Lievanos   |   Degree Objective: B.A., Health and Human Services; Recreational Therapye   |   Hometown: Arbuckle, CA

My thoughts on the Educational Opportunity Program are filled with incredible memories, from day one when I began the Summer Bridge Academy that smoothly transitioned into my first academic year in Fall of 2014. I was also part of the first cohort to participate in the Sophomore Bridge Program with EOP that took place in the summer transitioning into my second year of college. You do not realize how fast the time moves until you are on your way out. I am set to graduate in Spring 2019. College is not always what you expected, and the flight to graduation is not a perfecting landing, but it sure is a learning experience.

I was a first-generation college student, and I did not know anything about college. EOP gave me support and guidance to persist with my education. To keep going and not give up. That’s my biggest accomplishment: continuing my education, not giving up, and believing that EOP was my ticket to success.

There's a familiar quote that says, "Move forward and never look back." I did look back, and it was the most rewarding feeling. Looking back, I do not think I realized that at the end of my journey I would be earning my college degree for myself, for my family and for my community. My message to future students is: Take the time to acknowledge and remember where it all began. Let this be the courage that moves you forward.