It’s an academic boot camp designed to take high school students from the state’s poorest school districts and transform them into bright college students who will one day work as engineers, scientists and other professionals.
The summer program has been dubbed boot camp for good reason.
During their six-week stay at NJIT, the 160 students live in the residence halls and adhere to strict rules. As they arrive on campus, for instance, they must relinquish their cell phones. They can retrieve their phones after they graduate from the summer program on Aug. 4. Radios or TVs are not permitted in the dorms, and the men cannot visit the women’s floors. There is a midnight curfew, when their dorm lights must be out and a team of resident assistants monitor the students in the dorms.
(Editor’s Note: Reporters can visit the EOP Summer Enrichment Program at NJIT and stay with the students in their classes and dorms.)
The summer boot camp, run by NJIT’s Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), helps the students, most of who are minorities, make an easy transition from high school to college. If they do well in boot camp - pass all their courses - the students will be admitted to NJIT as freshmen in the fall.
“The program is demanding, no doubt about it,” says Laurence Howell, executive director of EOP. “But it gives the students the intensive academic prepping they need to make the transition from high school to a rigorous university such as NJIT. If a student is eager for education and preparation, the summer program is his or her passport into NJIT.”
The academic component of the program is equally rigorous. On a typical day, the students are enrolled in class from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. They attend tutoring sessions from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., with a short break for dinner. The students take classes in physics, math, management, English, communication and architecture, and are quizzed and tested every week in all subjects. They study late into the evening, until bedtime, and must leave their doors open so resident advisers can see that they are studying, not sleeping.
Although the boot camp is tough, the students have plenty of help, Howell said. The support, which continues throughout the student’s undergraduate life at NJIT, includes counseling, tutoring, scholarships and internships. EOP’s close ties with industry help the students get internships and co-ops with top companies.
Called the Engineering Opportunity Program when it began in 1968, EOP is funded by the New Jersey Educational Opportunity Fund and by NJIT. It was renamed the Educational Opportunity Program in 1975 to reflect its broader mission of providing access to disciplines at the university, including architecture, science and business.
Howell was named minority-engineering program director of the year by the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). Howell, of Wayne, was cited by the society for being a “major contributor to NJIT’s consistently high ranking in graduating black and Hispanic engineers.”
Minorities are underrepresented in engineering, but under Howell’s leadership, NJIT has distinguished itself in the national rankings of colleges that graduate minority engineers. NJIT ranks 9th in the nation for awarding bachelor’s degrees in engineering to African Americans, and 16th nationally for awarding bachelor’s degrees in engineering to Hispanics, according to the magazine Black Issues in Higher Education.
“EOP exists to ensure that all people, regardless of circumstances, have the chance to succeed in today’s world,” said Howell. “And the summer program is an investment in young people who, although they weren’t born into rich families and didn’t attend rich high schools, want a college education. Is there a better investment a college can make?”