Photos by Stephanie Perez.
Nearly 200 guests gathered at the Walter Pyramid on Friday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) at Cal State Long Beach, a program that offers support services to historically low-income and first-generation college students.
The event featured an exhibit highlighting black faculty and student activism as well as two panel discussions about the program and its founder Joseph L. White, along with speakers ranging from Cal State University (CSU) officials to Vice Mayor Rex Richardson and Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach.
“We are here to celebrate his [White’s] legacy, the legacy of EOP and how it has changed numerous lives by creating opportunities that were nonexistent before,” said Lowenthal.
In 1967, White, then a psychology professor at CSULB, noticed the lack of diversity on campus and reached out to George Demos, the dean of students at the time, for assistance.
“Lower campus wasn’t developed yet, just upper campus,” White said. “One day I started looking around and began counting all morning long and, out of 10,000 students, I think I counted 46 were blacks and 40 of them were athletics.”
White said with a state population increasing to be composed of 50 percent colored people, less than one percent of them were enrolled in the university. That observation served as a precursor for the development of the educational program, which Demos supported, giving him 65 admission slots to add diversity on campus. Instead, White recruited 200 admissible students for EOP, each receiving financial aid, counseling and mentoring.
EOP founder Joseph White (left) and former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (center) attend the 50th anniversary of Educational Opportunity Program.
CSULB was the first university to implement the program and in 1969, White and Willie Brown, who was a member of the California state assembly at the time, collaborated to establish the educational opportunity program not only across the CSU system, but all California colleges.
Currently, the campus serves about 2,400 students through EOP, which is over a 2,000 student increase from when the program was established 50 years ago, according to CSULB President Jane Close Conoley.
“It’s important to take time and celebrate the real impact that EOP has in creating a real change in so make folks’ lives,” Richardson said. “[...] We are a city that values education, and there are educational institutions around our city that work together to make sure everyone can achieve the promise of a college education.”
EOP offers students assistance with the admissions and financial aid application process, a full-service academic and personal support program, free tutorial services, a laptop loan program, peer mentoring and career guidance. For more information click here.
This story was updated on 11/10/16 at 2:20PM clarifying that Brown was a member of the state Assembly, not speaker, in 1969.