Ms. Paula Oliver was born in Jamaica where her grandmother raised her. She arrived in the U.S. at the age of 17, where she lived in NYC for a while. Ms. Oliver enrolled at Alfred State College, however, she later moved to Buffalo, NY as a single parent with a six-month-old child. To make ends meet, Ms. Oliver worked at Wegmans and as a telemarketer at IDRC/SmartLine and recalls that because she could not afford an apartment, she and her child lived with the woman who provided her with child day care services. Ms. Oliver ultimately married, bought a house and worked as a Customer Service Representative at HSBC Bank for ten years, before being laid off.
At this point Ms. Oliver had four children under the age of 10 and decided to enroll at the University at Buffalo Educational Opportunity Center’s (UBEOC) Registered Medical Assistant (RMA) program. As part of her RMA program, Ms. Oliver participated in clinical internships at Millard Fillmore Gates Hospital and Roswell Park Cancer Institute (now known as Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center). Her commitment to excellence and success in her internships precipitated in the EOC asking her to be the 2004 Student Commencement Speaker.
Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center hired Ms. Oliver upon graduation where she continues to work as a Clinical Support Assistant in the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit. In addition to her work as a Clinical Support Assistant, Ms. Oliver serves as Roswell’s CSEA Union 1st Vice President, is a diversity advocate on the Labor Relations Board, and a member of the African American Roswell Network. As a Union Steward on the Labor Relations Board Ms. Oliver assists with lobbying efforts and travels out of the region, from Buffalo, to New York City to Florida.
To continue her professional growth, Ms. Oliver earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Social Work from Buffalo State College while working full-time. After receiving her Bachelor’s Degree, Ms. Oliver volunteered at Crisis Services Buffalo, NY and Erie County answering hotline calls and assisting rape victims. She is an active member of the Old Landmark New Covenant Church of God in Christ where she formed a young adult support group named “Things Pertaining to Life.” This group offered mentoring to youth aged 12 – 21, assisting them with job skills, life lessons and referrals to community resources. Ms. Oliver is unable to join us today because she has been asked to represent CSEA Local 303 at the 48th International Convention of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) in Atlanta, Georgia.
Reflecting upon her time as a UBEOC student, Ms. Oliver stated that her marriage became strained and that walking the halls of UBEOC gave her a sense of belonging. “Faculty and staff kept telling me I was amazing so I began to feel important. I soaked up everything EOC offered like a sponge.” Ms. Oliver indicated that the EOC created “…independence in me.”
Ms. Oliver says, “EOC knew how to meet me where I was at. I am living my best life now. I like who I am.”
Alumni Affairs and Student Development Office