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Just weeks before NJIT’s Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) will send its 2017 graduates out into the professional world, it celebrated them at its 45th Annual Awards Ceremony, where a prevailing message was for them to return to NJIT to pay it forward by helping future EOP students.         

“You did it!” proclaimed Tony Howell, EOP executive director, to the students, families, friends and NJIT administrators and faculty that packed the Campus Center Atrium April 19. “But remember where you began.”      

“Great students do very well because of their parents, their guardians, their friends,” said NJIT President Joel Bloom, noting NJIT’s national standings for graduating African-American engineers (15th for bachelor’s degrees and fifth for master’s degrees). “You have to come back and help the next generation of EOP students, so I expect to see you back on-campus.”        

Charles Fey, vice president for student support and academic affairs, who will retire this June, echoed this sentiment.         

EOP’s 62 percent graduation rate is a testament to the strengths of both the program’s students and staff. The class of 2017 numbers 129 graduates, from this past December along with those finishing next month and in August.        

Among them are Mohamed Camara (B.S. Industrial Engineering) and Charlie Johnson-Maljar (B.S. International Business). Both are negotiating employment with a few companies and spoke about the impact EOP has had on them. 

EOP graduates Mohamed Camara (top) and Charlie Johnson-Maljar (bottom) address the crowd at the awards ceremony.

“I came to you a little rough around the edges,” said Camara with a laugh. “You showered us with love… There have been a lot of memorable moments and, most importantly, opportunities for growth.”   

The EOP family created a successful mindset for our students,” Johnson-Maljar added.          

Several students were recognized for their academic accomplishments at NJIT. Plaques for the highest GPA were awarded to Jonathan S. Isaacs (senior class), Ester Calderon (junior class), Andrew Atalla (sophomore class) and Kevin Pincay (freshman class). Pincay also received the Ronald Gautreau Scholarship, given to students who excel in science, particularly physics.

Students also were honored by the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) Professional Association of New Jersey, the liaison between campus-based EOF programs and New Jersey’s Office of the Secretary of Higher Education. They included Camara for Outstanding Achievement and Victor Fernandez, Carlos Morillo and Ymanei Perry for Outstanding Academic Achievement.

EOP enables students who face economic and educational challenges to not only attend NJIT, but also succeed, remarked Howell, who admitted to getting a little teary-eyed at every NJIT graduation. “This program is a pivotal part of the university,” he emphasized.