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MMC Officially Welcomes 50th “Jubilee” Class into the Higher Education Opportunity Program

August 12, 2019
  • The HEOP "Jubilee" Class of 2023, with MMC's HEOP founder, Dr. Eilene Bertsch (center)
  • MMC's HEOP Director, Harmony Cross, at the August 8 ceremony
  • MMC's HEOP Counselor and Coordinator, Neill Jaico, at the August 8 ceremony
  • (From left to right) Harmony Cross, MMC HEOP Director; Dr. Eilene Bertsch, MMC HEOP founder; Neill Jaico, HEOP Counselor and Coordinator; and Michael Salmon, Assistant Vice President and Dean of the Center for Academic Excellence
On August 8, 2019, students in the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) at Marymount Manhattan College were officially welcomed as members of MMC’s “Jubilee Class,” in celebration of 50 years of the College’s HEOP program, founded in 1969.

The HEOP Summer Academic Institute Program provides a rigorous six-week academic and social orientation for incoming students. The academic program emphasizes the strengthening of writing and math skills and provides students with a transition to college-level studies. From July 1 through August 8, the 21 students took part in cultural excursions, met a number of guest speakers, and completed workshops in library research. Along with developmental courses in writing and math, the students attended a third course on the history of education with Dr. Mary Brown, MMC’s archivist and adjunct History professor. “They were hardworking,” explains Brown, “tackling autobiographies by Benjamin Franklin and Malcolm X. They were accepting of diversity, studying Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois with equal interest. In their final essays they explained to me that education cannot be about personal success alone, but must also be about learning how to leverage one’s education for the benefit of others.”

Deanna Twain, who instructed the students in their writing course alongside Dr. Laura Hydak, has been involved in the HEOP summer institute for three years at MMC. “Once again, I found the HEOP program exciting, challenging, and extremely gratifying,” she says. “Each and every one of these students was prepared, involved, and really, really worked hard. They touched me and it was an honor to be a part of it.”

To conclude this year’s program, family members, friends, colleagues, and peers assembled in the Commons on August 8 to celebrate the students’ progress in a special closing ceremony. Harmony Cross, Director of HEOP at MMC, welcomed the room with history about the program and anecdotes from the past six weeks. Awards for academic success and group contributions were distributed, and a number of MMC staff members (including Twain and Brown) shared heartfelt words for the students and their work. Honored guest, Dr. Eilene Bertsch, who developed MMC’s HEOP program back in 1969, attended the ceremony and had the opportunity to speak with this year’s students privately before the ceremony. 

Neill Jaico, HEOP Counselor and Coordinator, noted the group’s bond that formed throughout the summer. “The students were challenged daily to sacrifice their former selves in order to dive into the abyss of their acknowledged potential,” says Jaico. “They embraced each other to overcome obstacles together. I look forward to the versatile accomplishments that will come from this group during their undergraduate career at Marymount Manhattan.” 

Congratulations to the Jubilee Class of 2023!