The University at Buffalo Educational Opportunity Center (UBEOC)

BEOC at 465 Washington Street

BEOC at 465 Washington Street

For over 50 years, the Buffalo Educational Opportunity Center (BEOC) has been in the forefront of building a ladder out of poverty -- through education -- for economically and educationally disadvantaged citizens in Western New York residents. UBEOC began as a vehicle for non-traditional students to prepare for college and employment. Over time UBEOC has expanded its mission of serving disadvantaged adults into an integrated system of education, student support services, and demand-driving vocational training programs that lead to entry-level job placement, career track employment in information technology, and employed in alled health.

The UBEOC also offers targeted services to business and industries to upgrade the skills of incumbent workers, collaborate with secondary schools to assist in the academic preparation of youth-at-risk, provide intergenerational learning programs to strengthen families, and narrow the digital divide in lower income communities by placing technology where it is accessible.

The New York State EOC's annually enroll about 16,000 students, with Buffalo's share about 2,000. Sixty percent of these students are enrolled in academic programs such as Academic Review (Basic Education), English as a Second Language (ESL), GED, and College Preparation. Though precise percentages vary from year to year, approximately 60 percent receive public assistance. The remainder of the student body consists of disadvantaged (unemployed, underemployed) workers, youth in search of a GED or employment training, and recently arrived immigrants whose efforts to carve out a place in American society begin with ESL classes.

However, numbers are only part of the UBEOC's story. Real names and faces underscore the value of an UBEOC education: Laurie, who went from the GED Program to a teaching degree and a job in Vancouver; Julie, who began in the GED Program and obtained a master's degree in Speech Pathology; Sharon, who went from College Prep to teaching high school English; Gloria, who cried on her second day in a GED class but went on to become an RN, a homeowner, and the mother of a college graduate; Dennis and Tommie, who both went from College Prep to college employees; Archie, who went from College Prep to city councilman and firefighter; Lourdes, who went from Dental Assisting to dental offices and eventually executive director of a major cultural organization; and countless others who work in dental and medical offices, stores and schools, and other business and agencies and identify themselves as EOC alumni when they get the chance.

The stories don't end with names, degrees and jobs. The story of UBEOC encompasses entire lives and communities. About 15 years after one UBEOC faculty member donated his sports jacket so one of his students could dress for a job interview, he attended that student's funeral, after an unexpected illness claimed the man in his 40's. The church was packed, the once homeless man having gained a wife and children and a great many friends since his student days. The professor was surprised to see the undertaker and the minister had also been his students at UBEOC, as had several mourners.

No matter how strong the connections with its host institution, the University at Buffalo, UBEOC is in and its community, neither detached from the people it serves nor seen as part of some remote and vague notion of learning as the path to achievement. The UBEOC makes real education and real success a tangible possibility for everyone lifting the community one success story at a time.

BEOC at 555 Ellicott Street

Edited from a "Brief History of UBEOC" by Professor Gary Earl Ross (Retired) - 2013