Attending college was always part of the plan for Meshach Cummings ’14, who grew up in Brooklyn.
But as one of six children raised by a mother who barely made $20,000 a year, considerably less than the cost of a year at many public and private institutions, Cummings had few choices.
With the help of the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP), Cummings, a top student at Brooklyn Latin School, was able to attend a small, private liberal arts college like Union.
An Africana Studies major with minors in political science and anthropology, Cummings has thrived during his four years here. A fixture on the Dean’s List, Cummings has been a tutor for the Academic Opportunity Program and president of the African and Latino Alliance of Students. He has also helped prepare meals and assist clients of the Schenectady Inner City Ministry. Currently, he works with Accommodative Services taking notes for students with learning disabilities.
On Monday, Cummings was selected to speak at a ceremony hosted by the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities in Albany honoring Arthur O. Eve, former deputy speaker and member of the New York State Assembly.
This year marks the 45th anniversary of the Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program.
“When I think of HEOP, I think of opportunity,” Cummings told the audience of 100 college presidents, legislators, government, business and community leaders.
“My college career at Union has been filled with a profusion of great opportunities thanks to the HEOP program. I've been able to go abroad to South Africa and Tanzania, to partake in a 17-day bus trip down south in commemoration of the Civil Rights Movement and partake in various internships and extracurricular activities that have broadened my horizons and carved me into a well-rounded individual.”
Cummings said his journey at Union has been guided by people such as Philip Poczik, AOP director, and Kelli Johnson, assistant director; and Bob Soules, director of the Becker Career Center, along with numerous professors and other students.
After he graduates in June, Cummings will spend two years with Teach for America in Philadelphia. Like Eve, he wants to focus on education inequity.
"I have always viewed HEOP as a talent search program,” said Poczik. “It unlocks the tremendous potential of students who might otherwise not be able to attend their respective colleges, and in turn they diversify the number of cultural lenses present on our campuses.
“Meshach epitomizes this dynamic. Quite simply, he represents what makes HEOP great."