Over 300 people were expected to attend the 50th anniversary celebration of the Extended Opportunities Program and Services (EOPS) at Porterville College on Wednesday evening, November 6, in the college quad. Colorful lights, red and white balloons, large decorated tables with white tablecloths, and red napkins made a festive and inviting scene. 

Dancers from Ballet Folklorico Orgullo Mexicano in gorgeous glittering costumes lent a touch of exotic expectation to the scene, before the Director of Student Services and EOPS Director, Diane Thompson read about the early history of the Extended Opportunities Program and Services (EOPS) and it’s huge significance to the Porterville Community and the nation. 

EOPS was founded in 1969 at Porterville College, and was was signed into law by Governor Ronald Reagan in 1969. The program was established as a direct result of the civil rights activities and social unrest during the 1960’s. The late Senator Al Alquist, authored Assembly Bill 164, which allocated state funds to create EOPS in the California Community College system.

After the opening remarks by Thompson, Ballet Folklorico Orgullo Mexicano performed a delightful and exciting dance routine. 

Afterwards the Porterville Choir sang the folk song, “May the Circle Be Unbroken” and the Porterville College Anthem directed by Sarah Rector.

Primavera Arvizu, the Vice President of Student Services then introduced all the many dignitaries present. They were Weston Anderson from Senator Shannon Groves field office, California Assemblyman Devon Mathis and his Assistant Rachel, Porterville Mayor Martha Flores, Porterville City Manager John Lollis, Porterville City Councilmembers Virginia Gurrola and Milt Stowe, Porterville College President Dr. Claudia Habib, Rudy Roman from EDD, and Cindy and Jeff Brown, from PUSD Pathways and HMA, and Irene Ortega, from Burton School District.

There were many former EOPS students and their families, as well, which seemed to almost fill the quad.

A video was shown during the presentation during the dinner, in which Virgina Gurrola spoke about EOPS. She was the departmental assistant in 1976, and was program director for over 25 years.

“We have been working on colleges to provide some kind of services to open doors for students who are disadvantaged, so they can have opportunities to pay for a college education. They would not get that opportunity, or their family members without EOPS. Early on the program met with hardship, but continued to thrive. 

“We went into homes with traditional hispanic families in the 1980’s, where a woman didn’t go into the home as “a director,” Gurrola said, “so I went as the assistant, and Umberto Garcia, acted as the director. We had to talk to the fathers about their daughters going to school, or their sons, but primarily their daughters. 

At the end of the discussion, when the father had listened and hummed and hawed, Umberto would say, “This is the director. And this is what your daughter could do.”

In the video, many students spoke about how EOPS helped them get ahead with their education, and many of them were the first members of their families to go to college. They spoke about how the program helped them financially, with their book purchases and their meals. For many it was a lifeline.”

 

The EOPS has improved the overall education of people in Porterville, and the Porterville College mentoring program provided role models for Hispanic girls in 1991 says a headline from Campus Partners in Learning.

EOPS is not just a state program, but a national program that was implemented at Porterville College. Gurrola and the program initiators worked with colleagues from Georgetown University and EOPS received statewide recognition.

“This program has helped so many students lives, and their education. It provides opportunities for students who are first generation and underrepresented to succeed. This program truly a success story for students and many of the other programs were modeled on EOPS. It was the first one.”

Dr. Claudia Habib welcomed everyone to the celebration and spoke movingly about the EOPS program, thanking all of the people who support students and help them improve their lives and help them pursue a college education.

 She spoke about struggling to support herself, and trying to multiple times to register for community college when the classes were full. Then a kind woman helped her and directed her to the EOPS office. With emotion, Habib spoke about that, and said she will never forget the kindness, the woman in the green dress. 

She said, “EOPS gave me an English dictionary, and a support system.” 

She said, “Former and current students, I’m so grateful for faculty and staff to help your dreams become a reality. It’s difficult to balance family, work, and school, but let’s celebrate a program that has changed the lives of so many, “Pay It Forward.”

Weston Anderson presented a certificate to Dr. Habib from Senator Shannon Groves commemorating the 50th anniversary of EOPS. 

Next, Devon Mathis stood behind the podium and thanked Dr. Habib, and said he grew up in Porterville, and understood the difficulties, he is also a Porterville College graduate. 

He read a proclamation and said that EOPS opened up countless opportunities for students from diverse backgrounds in over 73 districts throughout California and he presented framed proclamation to Dr. Habib to great applause from the assembled audience.

Porterville Mayor Martha Flores then spoke about EOPS and all the lives it has enriched and she thanked Porterville College faculty and teachers, EOPS students Alumnus, and their families. 

She introduced her seasoned friend, Milt Stowe, who is a former Porterville Mayor, a current City Council member, 2017 Person of the Year, EOPS Alumnus, and Hall of Fame Inductee. Stowe is also a former P.C. Coach. 

He greeted everyone and said, “Good evening. I want to thank the college and EOPS for inviting me to come. 

It’s been a pleasure since 1970. I’ve been a part of PC in one way or another. A student, a coach, and now on board. Once a pirate always a pirate. We talk about a 50th anniversary.

“It’s the people who can help guide you through the program. The two women who helped me were like my mothers on campus. They always made sure I was in class. 

“When you have an opportunity you need to take advantage of it. PC and EOPS gave me hope,” said Stowe.

“Have faith and miracles will show up in your life. Real blessings.

The world always reflects back what you give to it.

Happy birthday EOPS.”

Current EOPS student Jessie Romero spoke about being in the program, and that he has completed a semester and is sticking to it, being the first in his family. He has battled drugs and has been through the PAAR program and is a former prisoner.

There are thousands of students who’ve graduated and succeeded with their education with the help of EOPS, and Ramona Chiapa, and PC Alumna, and Foundation Executive Director asked everyone to think about making a donation to EOPS or any program that helps students with their education.

The Porterville Mariachi Academy played at the end of the evening, after which Roger Perez took alumni photos to help commemorate the evening at PC.

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