For over 30 years, the Rutgers College of Nursing Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) has provided access to under-represented students into the field of Nursing. EOF provides academic, financial, and counseling services to first-generation students who have academic potential, but may not have the means to afford college. 

The program is unique in that nurses also serve as educators, preparing students for the rigors of the nursing curriculum. Students attend a series of seminars taught by nurses to prepare them for courses such as Pathophysiology, Organic Biochemistry, and Health and Illness of Adults. During the summer before their junior year, students also participate in a Pre-Junior Clinical Enrichment program, with an intensive eight-week theory course taught by nurses. They also have their first clinical experience at Saint Michael’s Medical Center, where students work on the floor under the supervision of their clinical instructor. The practice gives them the confidence and skills that they will take with them as they proceed into their upper-level courses.

EOF works with students to increase their skills and knowledge by providing supplemental courses and workshops. Students, particularly first-generation, have access to the support that they need. Graduates of the EOF program often continue their education, entering master’s and doctoral programs. 

While EOF students show great academic progress, they often come with many social and emotional issues that may impede their work towards graduation. EOF’s staff includes counselors that meet with students on a regular basis. First-year students are required to meet with their counselors weekly; sophomores, every two weeks; and juniors and seniors, monthly or as needed. The counselors serve as resources for everything from navigating the financial aid application process to settling into residence life. 

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EOF recognizes the needs of first-generation college students and provides support to make the transition from high school to college a manageable experience. The program also facilitates students attending meetings for professional nursing associations such as the Student Nursing Association, Concerned Black Nurses of Newark, and the Hispanic Nurses Association. At these conferences students can also network with nurse leaders and gain mentoring experiences.

EOF hopes to continue to be a beacon of hope and guidance to minority and first-generation college students. 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 about preserving and even increasing funding to EOF. The program also needs more professional nurses willing to volunteer their time and knowledge to mentor students and serve as instructors. It is important that students see nurses from all walks of life. These nurse mentors, who willingly give of themselves and their knowledge, make a huge difference in nursing students’ lives.

 

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