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Pictured, left to right: Oshane Cooke, Javier Saldana, Tiffany Yang, Peterson Etienne, Edithson Abelard, and Oliver Vasquez
On Friday, July 6, the Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) held its second annual Alumni and Current Student Panel. Five HEOP alumni and one current HEOP student took time from their hectic schedules to speak to the 18 incoming HEOP freshmen about their experiences at NYIT and HEOP. They offered valuable insights into the struggles, opportunities, and benefits of being a college student—and being a HEOP student in particular. The most common word used when describing HEOP was “family.” The panelists spoke repeatedly of being part of a family that would support and encourage but also hold them accountable when they veered off track. They encouraged the freshmen to take advantage of the many opportunities at NYIT, including making good use of their HEOP family.
Some opportunities the panelists spoke about were study groups, tutoring, club and honor society membership, internships, and study abroad opportunities. Two panelists, Edithson Abelard (B.F.A., Computer Graphics, ’08) and Oshane Cooke (B.S., Advertising, ‘14) spoke of creating their own student groups. Edithson said there was not a group that addressed the needs of students majoring in computer graphics, so he created SAGA, the Student Advertising Graphics Association. It has remained an active part of the NYIT student body to this day. He also encouraged students to seek help when needed and described his own experience in getting extra help aside from the required tutoring HEOP students receive their freshman year. He said the long hours he spent getting the extra tutoring helped him get to where he is today, in a career that he loves. Edithson Abelard is currently the founder and senior creative director of Passion 47, a design firm specializing in branding, print advertisement, motion graphics and internet marketing. Oshane Cooke, the current student on the panel, is the co-founder and president of SWAG, Students Working to Achieve Greatness. He told the freshmen the group was created to get students involved in the numerous activities and opportunities on campus, and he encouraged all of them to look into becoming a member.
Recent graduate and Chi Alpha Epsilon (XAE) National Honor Society member Oliver Vasquez (B.S., Telecommunications Network Management, ’12) spoke of his study abroad experience with the Alternative Spring Break trip to Peru. He encouraged students to look into the Alternative Spring Break trip and other community service projects and described the many internship opportunities he received through NYIT’s Office of Career Services. He encouraged the freshmen to take advantage of this excellent resource. Tiffany Yang (B.P.S., Hospitality Management, ’12) spoke about the Greek organizations on campus and her experience in the Alpha Sigma Tau (AST) sorority as well as the many opportunities available to hospitality majors. Both Tiffany and Oshane shared their experiences at the National Center for Student Leadership (NCSL) conference in Florida.
Panelists also discussed struggles and obstacles. Javier Saldana (B.S., Interdisciplinary Studies, ’03) spoke about realizing he was in the wrong major, something many students can relate to. He found that interdisciplinary studies was the best fit because it allowed him to explore three subject concentrations, which now helps him in his position as a career counselor at Hostos Community College. Peterson Etienne (B.S., Electrical and Computer Engineering, ’10; M.S., Energy Management, ’12) spoke about being the first member in his family to not only earn a bachelor’s degree but also to continue his education beyond that by receiving a master’s degree. Peterson is now an energy engineer for the Community Environmental Center.
Although the panelists came from a range of academic disciplines and career fields, one thing they shared was their affection for NYIT and HEOP. They continuously encouraged incoming HEOP freshmen to grab hold and take advantage of the opportunities at NYIT and beyond that would soon come their way.