Abell Salutes: Educational Opportunity Program at Lake Clifton-Eastern High

January 1991 / Salutes / Education

“We do whatever it takes to make it work.”

Some Lake Clifton students headed for dropout and the streets are now headed for college. The reason is a program called the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP). EOP is not just one more program designed to assist disadvantaged students get on in life; this one is among those that work.

“It works,” Nathaniel McFadden, fa­cilitator of the program, says, “because we do whatever it takes to make it work.” And it takes a lot–of energy, understanding, perseverance. commitment, and especially, dedicated people.

The program was conceived by busi­nessman and citizen activist Robert Bonnell, philanthropist William March and retired Baltimore City assistant school superintendent Theda Wilson. Inspired by Eugene Lang’s “I Have A Dream” initia­tive in 1985, they arranged to meet personally with Lang in New York and came back to Baltimore with their own dream: they would bring hope to students in a school where, Wilson said, ‘”There is no­ hope.” To transform the dream, an action plan was created for what ultimately came to be known as Educational Opportunity Program (EOP). The founding group then raised $270,000 to support it for 54 students in Lake Clifton-Eastern High.

The program’s objective is, first, to keep students from dropping out, and then in the ideal, to inspire them–lending support with scholarship money–to go on to college.

The program is made up of several programs that function together and complement each other. Bonnell acted as part-time coordinator for the first class, from 1986 to 1988. McFadden, a former schoolteacher and city councilman, took over as full-time facilitator of the overall effort in 1988. That effort includes the development, individual-by-individual, of a close, personal relationship with each of the participating students, providing counseling, tutoring, mentoring, a sum­mer program at Morgan State University, and SAT preparation, job opportunities, cultural activities and scholarship devel­opment.

McFadden has figures that show that EOP works. “In our first group that even­tually involved 66 students from 1986 to 1990, 51 have graduated from high school, six more will complete high school within the year, 49 have been admitted to college, four more are expected to go. The number of students in the school from a similar size group who would likely be accepted to college prior to EOP would be about six or so.”

Last fall, based on the success of the Class of 1990, two new groups totaling 120 Lake Clifton-Eastern ninth graders were enrolled in two EOP replications.

The Abell Foundation joins the com­munity and its leadership in recognizing the creativity, energy and dedication of those who are making EOP a program that works.