Commemorating 50 Years of the Educational Opportunity Center
Commemorating 50 Years of the Educational Opportunity CenterPamela G. Lamberth, Director, Educational Opportunity Center
“The EOC is where the rubber meets the road.” That’s according to Curtis Etherly, Jr., Esq., Coca-Cola Company executive and Yale University and Georgetown University Law Center alumnus. He first sought help from the Educational Opportunity Center (EOC) as a Ballou Senior High School student. “Programs like the EOC are absolutely critical,” he says.
October 2017 marks fifty years ago that a group of dedicated local college admission and financial aid professionals joined forces with the staff of the College Board’s Washington Office in pursuit of the EOC's vision. From their daily work, they knew that access to higher education would remain out of reach for large numbers of students from low-income and first-generation college backgrounds. They also recognized that systemic racism and poverty were huge impediments to achieving economic and educational parity for some students, and that—without postsecondary education—the gap between the “haves” and the “have nots” would only widen.
President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty provided the funding to launch the ground-breaking initiative, which has always aimed to open doors to educational opportunities and ensure access. The predecessor of the Educational Opportunity Center (EOC), the Opportunity Project for Education Now (Project OPEN), was funded under Title IV of the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965 and first opened its doors in 1967. In 1976, the staff and services of the project were expanded through funding provided by the 1972 HEA amendment, which authorized the establishment of Educational Opportunity Centers nationwide.
Over the years, Project OPEN and the EOC have helped more than 250,000 inner-city young people and adults imagine and achieve a brighter future through individualized assistance. Programs and services that say “you can do it” and “we can help” have been critical to the success of these students. While working with our counseling staff, potential college students receive academic and financial aid information and advice about opportunities at two-year and four-year colleges, universities, and vocational schools. In addition to offering one-on-one services, the EOC has also reached thousands of Washington, D.C. residents with community-based activities like the annual College Day, Career Day, and countless college tours.
The EOC provides city-wide service to District residents through a network of multi-faceted organizations, including D.C. public and private high schools, the D.C. government, nonprofit organizations, associations, and federal and local public agencies. Much of the program’s success springs directly from the support of this large network of dedicated professionals.
The EOC has evolved into a one-stop-center, integrating all of what we do into a coordinated, easily-accessible system that supports learners with ease and success. Throughout the years, the EOC has remained fiercely committed to the goals that helped to launch the program fifty years ago.
As we pause to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the EOC and the 52th anniversary of the Higher Education Act, we acknowledge the many contributions of past and present staff; each has shared the program’s goals to increase the number of low-income and potential first-generation individuals who pursue postsecondary education. We also thank the District residents who welcome us, and the outreach professionals who serve as advocates for access to higher education.
Nearly a quarter of a million people, many of whom might never have considered a postsecondary education, are now living proof of what is possible.