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“We saw when you came in as freshmen, and you thought you knew it all. Then you realized after the first week of the summer program, do I really know anything?” reminisced Crystal Smith, interim director of NJIT’s Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), while addressing EOP graduating seniors, their parents and university staff and faculty. “And then you made it through to this awards ceremony for us to celebrate you.”

And celebrated they were at EOP’s 47th annual gathering to commend students for their academic accomplishments. The class of 2019 includes 110 graduates representing a range of majors.

Laurent Simon, vice provost for undergraduate studies, remarked, “We told you to believe in yourself and to follow a few rules — study on time, prepare for the test and you will make it. So you listened to us and you were able to make it. We are always here for you whatever endeavor you decide to pursue. … I’m very sure that you will do very, very well in the world.”

Senior speaker and concrete industry management major Ishmael Menns, who will join Lithko Contracting as a project engineer after NJIT, talked about the difficulties he faced after sustaining an injury from playing lacrosse and how the staff at EOP helped him get back on his feet, figuratively and literally.

Senior speaker Ishmael Menns

“My time here at NJIT has been challenging. It pushed me beyond my limits, both academically and emotionally,” Menns said. “I cannot thank the EOP staff enough for everything they’ve done for me and countless others here at NJIT.” 

EOP presented plaques for highest GPA for fall 2018 to Walena Youssef, continuing senior; Kevin Pincay, junior; Jay Patel, sophomore and straight-A student; and Christian Eriksson and Ricky Palaguachi, freshmen. Other honors included the Educational Opportunity Fund Professional Association of New Jersey awards, given to seniors Taufiqul Islam, Emran Rashid, Umaamah Tobias and Wasam Youssef. Menns received Outstanding Achievement from the State of New Jersey Secretary of Higher Education, and freshman Sabrina Vasquez accepted the Dr. Ronald Gautreau Scholarship, conferred for excellence in physics and named for the late NJIT faculty member.

Before the soon-to-be NJIT graduates introduced themselves and accepted their EOP sashes at the close of the ceremony, Kim Akhtab, EOP associate director, told them, “You are now excelling to the next level and we know you are going to be successful in your future endeavors. … Without you, without your success, the program would not be where it is today.”

EOP Interim Director Crystal Smith with EOP freshman Sabrina Vasquez, recipient of the Dr. Ronald Gautreau Scholarship
Graduating seniors from EOP shared their post-NJIT plans.