When two anonymous donors challenged SUNY New Paltz to raise funds to address the needs of Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) students last fall, they promised to match up to $50,000.
The global SUNY New Paltz community not only accepted the challenge but exceeded the original goal, raising $57,358 as of Dec. 31, 2021, with the $50K match bringing the total to $107,358. Yet EOP students’ needs are ongoing, and donations will continue to be accepted.
“The entire New Paltz community came together to make this challenge a success,” said Director of EOP Antonio Bonilla ’87 (Spanish) ’05g (Professional Studies). “This is the kind of generosity that helps our students complete their studies and thrive.”
The anonymous donor’s matching gift of $50,000, plus an additional $5,000 from other donors, will launch an endowed scholarship that will grow and support EOP students in perpetuity. This new, endowed scholarship at the SUNY New Paltz Foundation will support students’ non-tuition educational expenses such as books, fees, and living assistance.
Support for EOP came from all segments of the New Paltz community, including several faculty, staff and their families, Foundation Board directors, and a number of longtime donors. All these contributions build on decades-long support from Foundation Board Director Philip M. Berkowitz ’75 and his wife, Mary Ann Quinn, as well as recently-deceased former Board Director Brian McShane ’74 and the Katzenberger Foundation.
Many alumni, including numerous EOP alumni, donated. Undergraduate and alumni groups that contributed included: Phi Iota Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity, Inc., First World New Paltz Alumni, and #mystudentschangetheworld.
“I have gotten to know hundreds of students over the course of 15 years, and I have never seen our students in greater need for support than they are right now,” said donor and EOP Advisor Robert Hancock. “I have learned from those that have come before me and from my students that we must strive to live up to the values that we profess and take an active role in building the future we wish to see. Seeing our students persevere, grow, and succeed gives me perspective on my own life, and reminds me to be grateful.”
According to the donors, a couple who wishes to remain anonymous, “We feel the work of EOP is a vitally important cause. The pandemic’s negative impacts are falling disproportionately on students who often have considerable existing educational needs and few opportunities, including many from historically marginalized and underserved groups. While many EOP students have found creative ways to continue learning despite the new and evolving challenges during the pandemic, we knew the New Paltz community would step up and provide these students with the resources they need to succeed.”
EOP supports students throughout their college careers by providing access, academic stability, and financial aid for those who have strong potential for success in higher education but are limited by financial and educational barriers. The funds raised in this matching gift challenge will help to meet a critical need for EOP support beyond state-funded tuition assistance. Although tuition costs are covered for many EOP students, the average student still has an unmet need of $15,000 per year. Thus, many EOP students struggle to afford educational necessities such as room, board, transportation and supplies.