Record Number of Access Opportunity Program Students in Geneseo Summer Program

AOP Summer Program students Kevin Alvarez (right) from Cortlandt Manor, N.Y., and Zach Stepien from Lancaster, N.Y., work on titrations in their chemistry lab at SUNY Geneseo.

GENESEO, N.Y. -- A record number of students are participating in SUNY Geneseo's Access Opportunity Program (AOP) summer orientation this year. Through the college's two AOP components, 121 students are on campus through Aug. 5 taking courses, becoming familiar with campus resources and getting acquainted with faculty and staff before fall semester classes start in August. Geneseo received 1,200 applications for the program.

"The program is growing steadily and it fits right in with Geneseo's initiative to increase campus diversity," said Calvin Gantt, who has been AOP director at Geneseo since 2006. "The program involves both an academic and social component and our goal is to make sure the students are able to stand on their own and make their own decisions. This is a residential program so the students stay on campus for the entire four weeks, even weekends."

The college has operated the AOP program for 43 years as a means of means of meeting the higher educational aspirations of academically talented students who don't come from the same background as generally admitted students.

The Arthur O. Eve Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) provides these traditionally by-passed residents of New York state with access to higher education. The program is aimed at students who have the potential to complete a college degree but do not meet the general admission requirements because their academic credentials may have been adversely affected during their high school years by socioeconomic factors.

In 1985, the college established the Transitional Opportunity Program (TOP), patterned after EOP, to interest academically talented students in Geneseo - often minority students -- who were being denied access to SUNY Geneseo due to its high admissions standards. Final acceptance to attend Geneseo is based on the successful completion of the summer program.

"Being in this summer program has opened my eyes to what I can expect when classes start," said Kevin Alvarez from Cortlandt Manor in New York's Westchester County, a TOP student who intends to major in biology at Geneseo. "I have met terrific people and some lifelong friends. The experience has given me a taste of college life that will allow me to hit the ground running in August."

Alvarez and all AOP summer program students are taking three courses: a writing course for credit, a chemistry or math course and a college survival course. Gantt says students in the summer program have done well.

"The grade point of our AOP students last fall was on par with the average GPA of the generally admitted Geneseo student," said Gantt, who himself was in a program similar to AOP as a student. "We continue to meet with our students weekly throughout the school year to make sure they continue to progress."

AOP alumni often attest to the benefits of the program by returning to campus to speak with current AOP students about what they are doing. Rochester school teacher Leslie Rivera, a 2006 Geneseo graduate, will address the current summer program students Aug. 3.

Gantt says pride doesn't begin to describe how he and members of his staff feel when an AOP student graduates.

"We know a student's history and what he or she had to overcome to get to the point of graduation," said Gantt. "Given the opportunity, these students can make great strides in their lives and become productive citizens of our society. That's why these programs are so important."

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