Published July 1, 2020
Marlyce Godoy dropped out of college to raise her daughter as a single mother while receiving public assistance and working at a local restaurant.
Then she saw a flyer highlighting tuition-free programs at UB’s Educational Opportunity Center. This year, she credits the UBEOC for a “new beginning” that has led to her present career as an assistant professor/clinical instructor in the dental hygiene program at SUNY Erie, as well as the role of president of the Buffalo Chapter of the American Dental Hygienists Association.
Ahmed Saleh escaped Eritrea in Eastern Africa in 1993 when he was 18. After working as a corner store cashier, he enrolled in the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program at the UBEOC.
Now, Saleh owns two Mandela Markets, helping to alleviate food insecurity on Buffalo’s East Side, making it easier for Buffalo residents to find and buy fresh fruits and vegetables.
Godoy and Saleh have joined the ranks of UBEOC success stories, further evidence of the EOC’s legacy of transforming lives.
Godoy received this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award presented to an alumna/alumnus who embodies UBEOC lifelong learning values and turns efforts into achievements.
Saleh won the Arthur O. Eve Education and Community Service Award, which honors the legacy of Arthur O. Eve, former deputy speaker of the New York State Assembly, under whose leadership the state’s EOC centers were established. This award goes to a current UBEOC student or alumna/alumnus demonstrating leadership, advocacy, community service and/or commitment to education.
“Ms. Godoy and Mr. Saleh are two more examples of individuals who reached out to the Buffalo EOC to find ways to transform their lives so that they could contribute to their respective communities,” says Julius Gregg Adams, executive director of the UBEOC. “We are proud of their accomplishments and honored that they chose the Buffalo EOC to continue their personal and professional growth.”
Adds Margot Barrett Keysor, UBEOC alumni affairs administrator: “UBEOC alumni more than just acknowledge the expression ‘when opportunity knocks.’ They internalize its meaning into their character and act upon it.”
Godoy, a member of the UBEOC Class of 2011, was born in Belize, coming to the U.S. when she was 6. After dropping out of UB to raise her daughter, Godoy enrolled in UBEOC and received support from the UBEOC to cover transportation costs, child care, uniforms and certification fees through a partnership between the UBEOC and the Buffalo Employment and Training Center.
“Fortunately for me, UBEOC provided all the tools I needed to succeed in the dental field,” says Godoy. “As an alumna, UBEOC has continued to create opportunities as I’ve transitioned from the student to the teacher. Without these support tools, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
After completing her 300-hour clinical externship and earning her certification from the Dental Assistant National Board while at UBEOC, Godoy was hired as a certified dental assistant at the WNY Dental Group, where she is still employed.
While working as a dental assistant, she continued her education, earning her associate’s degree in dental hygiene from SUNY Erie. She earned a BS from SUNY Buffalo State with GPA of 3.97. She then received a Cultural Diversity Graduate Fellowship from Buffalo State and completed MS in career and technical education with an overall GPA of 4.0.
She is currently researching doctoral programs and scholarships, and plans to transition from the clinical setting to education.
Saleh, a member of the UBEOC Class of 1998, arrived alone in the U.S. speaking very little English. His resolve to build a better life followed the death of his father during his country’s civil war, and the death of his mother.
“EOC gave me the confidence to seek more opportunities offered by the United States,” he says. “I needed to move further ahead. EOC teachers and counselors showed me the way and helped me explore what was out there.”
From 1993-97, he worked numerous jobs to support himself, including as a cashier at a corner store and as a UPS driver.
By opening Mandela Market in 2007, he helped Buffalo residents living in a federally recognized “food desert” on the city’s Easy Side. Saleh received funding from the East Side Corridor Economic Development Fund to expand his store, one of nine projects identified to receive funding from this initiative to spark revitalization of the East Side. He opened a second location in 2018.
Saleh graduated from SUNY Erie, then earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science and an entrepreneurial certificate from Buffalo State. He became a citizen in 2001 and is married with three children. Saleh has used his markets to support families in the community, mentor area youth by sponsoring a bowling league, and provide employment opportunities to EOC students.
Both honorees were recognized at the UBEOC’s virtual graduation ceremony that can be viewed here.