For more than 30 years, Rutgers College of Nursing in Newark, N.J., has provided access to under-represented nursing students through its Educational Opportunity Fund program. The programs mission is to provide academic, financial and counseling services to students who have academic potential but may not have the means to afford college. Many are the first students in their family to attend college.
The EOF program is unique because nurses who serve as educators prepare the students. Students are provided with a series of seminars taught by nurses to prepare them for courses, such as pathophysiology, organic biochemistry and health and illness of adults.
They have made the process of becoming a nurse a reality for me, said Jo-Ann Brutus, a nursing student who plans to graduate in 2012. They have taught me … to push myself to be the best and when I reach the top, dont forget to help someone else who may be in need.
As students enter their junior year, they take a pre-junior clinical enrichment course during the summer. Students are taught an intensive eight-week course by nurses in theory, and they receive a clinical experience at Saint Michaels Medical Center in Newark. The students work on the floor under the supervision of their clinical instructor dressed in a Rutgers College of Nursing student uniform.
The nursing professors primarily serve as role models for the EOF students and present about their nursing experiences. For example, Wallena Gould, CRNA, MSN, spoke to the students about her career as a nurse anesthetist during the Careers in Nursing seminar. Faculty also provide course instruction, help prepare students for the exit examination and offer tutorials for the NCLEX. The program also features a staff of counselors with whom students meet regularly. The counselors serve as resources for the students to get them through the challenges of college, from financial aid to residence life to academic advising.
The Educational Opportunity Fund Program is an organization that truly lives up to its own name, said Daniel Lazo, nursing student. It is not the program, per se, but the directors, deans, assistant deans, counselors and other individuals who dedicate their lives so that students, like myself, can excel.
Since its inception in 1977, the program has provided opportunities for students to attend nursing professional association meetings, such as the Student Nursing Association, Concerned Black Nurses of Newark and the National Association of Hispanic Nurses. At these meetings students are given the opportunity to meet nurse leaders and network.
Many EOF students take lead positions in the College of Nursing. For example, the senior class president for the Class of 2010 and the Ella V. Stonsby Award recipient were EOF students. The Stonsby Award is given to the nursing student with the highest GPA. Graduates of the EOF program often continue their education entering masters and doctoral programs.
With cutbacks to higher education programs, EOF is at risk of losing funding to support these students. Many testimonials have been presented to the state legislature to preserve and even increase funding to EOF. The program also is in need of professional nurses who will volunteer to mentor students, serve as instructors for the skills and pre-junior clinical program and serve on career panels during the semester.
For information or to volunteer, contact Valerie Smith Stephens, EdD, LCSW, at 973-353-1091 or Vstephen@andromeda.rutgers.edu.