Coming Together

Educational Opportunity Center to benefit from grant that will provide digital services

The Educational Opportunity Center, which teaches basic professional skills, may be “one of the best-kept secrets in Syracuse,” in the words of a Le Moyne College official who works there. But the center, at 100 New St., may soon become better known. Le Moyne will use half of a $45,000 grant to fund programs at the EOC, such as starting a service-learning website, webinars and other digital education supplements.

The other half of the grant was used in September to fund a Health and Science Fair. More than 200 Syracuse residents gathered in the EOC parking lot at New and Montgomery streets on the South Side to learn how to live a healthy lifestyle.

Darshini Roopnarine, the Le Moyne official, believes the center was the perfect host for the event.

“It’s centrally located, and it serves the population we want to reach,” said Roopnarine, who is the director of the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program at Le Moyne and is responsible for CSTEP receiving the service-learning grant.

The Educational Opportunity Center’s Health and Science Fair was held in September 2012. | Quentin Brunson, Photo Provided

The EOC has been serving the South Side for more than 30 years. All of its programs and services are free, Roopnarine said, including college and GED preparation, and preparation to become a certified nurse’s aide.

She said the fair, which was coordinated by the EOC and Le Moyne, illustrates the partnership that the two have with the community. The Health and Science Fair was held in partnership with the MOST, a downtown Syracuse science museum; the Cornell Cooperative Extension, an educational program helping people learn through community engagement; and other local organizations.

Le Moyne and CSTEP coordinate the service-learning online projects, made possible through the grant. Roopnarine hopes the online projects will be finished by the end of this academic semester, she said.

Service learning is a big component of CSTEP, Roopnarine said. In fact, she received a service-learning grant previously, when she was the director of CSTEP at Morrisville State College. Roopnarine explained the difference between community service and service learning. “Service learning is when you apply your major to serving a need for the community,” she said. CSTEP and the EOC see value in students applying their studies to serving the community. Roopnarine coordinated Le Moyne student volunteers to help out at the health fair. Before the event, eight senior nursing students set up boxes of stickers, glitter, water bottles and other giveaways, such as Syracuse University basketball T-shirts and samples of lip balm.

Kara Keyes, professor of health assessment, family nursing and service learning at Le Moyne, coordinated some of the nursing volunteers. She said the fair was a great resource for South Side residents and equally valuable for the nursing students because it teaches them what it means to give back.

Fairgoers learned proper hand washing, got measured for height and weight, and had their blood pressure taken. The parking lot of the EOC was transformed into a fair with two large, white carnival tents, two bouncy houses, zumba class, science experiments, health resources and cooking demonstrations.

“Community service isn’t all sweat and tears — it’s supposed to be fun,” Roopnarine said.