The Education Opportunity Fund (EOF) virtual graduation ceremony was as celebratory as you can get, complete with dinner, DJ Spynfo, and dancing in your seats! The evening paid tribute to eighty-three 2020-2021 graduates and honored members of our Brookdale community who have championed the EOF vision and contributed to the program’s success.  

“This year has been unlike any year for all of us, unimaginable adversity yet overcome by sheer tenacity and resilience, time for celebration” exclaimed Richard Morales-Wright, director of Education Opportunity Fund (EOF). “As Brookdalians, our faculty, administrators, staff, and students have stood strong and have remained cautiously optimistic about the future. All of us have engaged in incredible work during these challenging times. We are so proud of our graduates!” 

“We have the best EOF program in the state of New Jersey. I want to thank the EOF staff for pouring your heart and soul into making sure our students are successful across the state. I appreciate your energy and dedication.” said David Stout, Ph.D., president of the Brookdale Community College.  

“EOF is one of my favorite programs because it is about underdogs,” said Matthew Reed, Ph.D., vice-president of Academic Affairs. “When you graduate and move on, you are living truth, and today you are here proving that truth.” 

Yesenia Madas, Ed.D., associate vice-president of Student Affairs, gave some encouraging remarks “There is no better week than celebration week, celebrating you! Through all the darkness and all the challenges, you are HERE, you persevered, you showed resilience, grit and probably broke a few doors. Wherever that next place is for you, continue to work hard, continue to ask for help, don’t forget that people will want to help you. Don’t be afraid to keep knocking down some doors. Break them if you have to, because your future is very bright!” 

Special guests of the evening included the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education, Dr. Hasani Carter, executive director of EOF. He said, “EOF stands for informally, ‘extension of family,’ he said, and membership has its benefits; EOF will support you through your graduate studies. One of these days I want to see one of you replace me and carry the legacy of EOF forward.”  

Many elected officials attended the graduation and spoke to the graduates, offering support and shared stories of encouragement. They were Senator Vin Gopal, Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling, Assemblyman Joann Downey, Monmouth County Commissioner Ross F. Licitra, Township of Middletown Mayor Anthony S. Perry. 

Keynote speaker W. David Tarver, founder and board president of Urban Entrepreneurship Initiative, shared the details of his book “Proving Ground: A Memoir” about his entrepreneurial journey from a childhood dream to international success. He said, “You are the president of your life. Assemble your team of supporters and advisers. Talk with and listen to them. Let the struggles and setbacks you have experienced be your fuel. You are uniquely qualified to be the service to your family, your community, and to humanity.” 

Rose Adu
Rose Adu at the in-person commencement.

The OSHE/EOF Achievement Award Spotlight was presented to Rose Adu, A.A.S. Paralegal Studies, from Parlin NJ., and receiving the Outstanding Achievement Award was Keyana Johnson, A.A., Liberal Arts, from Lake Como, NJ. The OSHE Distinguished Scholars are Christine Herrara, A.S., Mathematics/Science (Science Option), and Margaret Olanubi, A.S., Business Administration, maintaining a 4.0 GPA. 

In recognition of exemplary service and support provided to the EOF program at Brookdale, this year’s EOF Champion Awards were presented to Stephen Curto, Ed.D., Professor of Counseling; Ed Johnson, M.A., executive director for the Office of Governmental Affairs and Community Relations; Jennifer Jordan, assistant director, Financial Aid; Charanne P. Smith, D.M., director of Student Basic Needs; and Kim Van Lew, QPA, purchasing manager for the Office of Finance and Operations. “These are the champions that are always making sure our students are doing well and prospering.” said Morales-Wright.  

Rose Adu, past president of the Student Life Board, said about the EOF program, “They basically have this magic wand, and they take your dreams and create them into reality. And, along the way they give you the positive assurance and the positive attitude to get through your journey. They are always willing to assist to make sure all of their students are successful. I never actually thought I would be here today.”