The Educational Opportunity Center returned to its riverside roots when the facility relocated to 431 River Street, the Hedley Building, in January 2014.
44 Year Old History (published in 2006)
The Capital District Educational Opportunity Center began as a direct result of the 1960s movement which recognized segments of our population were not being adequately served by traditional educational methods. Through the efforts of Governor Nelson Rockefeller and the state Legislature, funding was provided through the State University of New York to establish Educational Opportunity Centers in Troy, Buffalo, Manhattan, and Brooklyn. Each new center offered not only the usual vocational training and college preparation, but also community services aimed at surrounding residents.
By 1986, the state Legislature recognized the value of these centers and created additional ones. There are now 10 Educational Opportunity Centers and two Career Counseling Centers. Each of the centers is affiliated with a higher education institution within the SUNY or CUNY system. All are subject to financial, academic, and workforce guidelines as well as performance standards. All are committed to providing access to higher education and employment to underserved populations.
In 1998, the State University of New York’s University Center for Academic and Workforce Development (UCAWD) assumed the oversight of the EOC’s. UCAWD’s mission is to promote the social and monetary well being of its academically- and economically-challenged citizens by creating and sustaining high quality education and workforce initiatives. This mission is crucially important to New York State and its future.
From the beginning, the Capital District EOC’s administering campus has been Hudson Valley Community College. The initial commitment was made by then President James J. Fitzgibbons, assisted by Reuben Merchant, and strong support continued under the direction of President Joseph J. Bulmer. The initial location for the Urban Center in this area was Troy. Soon locations in Albany and Schenectady followed, all affiliated with Hudson Valley Community College.
The initial location of the Urban Center in Troy was at Washington and Front streets next to Clemente Cement plant, just feet from the Hudson River. These facilities consisted of former buildings operated by the Barge Canal Authority and then the Naval Reserve during World War II. Clearance to use these buildings had to be secured not only from the state, but the federal government as well.
The first programs to start were technical programs, with academic programs developing soon after. Enrollment in the first year for all three sites totaled 629 students with 237 graduating. Machine Tool was the first program started in September 1966. Others that followed in the next several months were Power Sewing, Typing and Shorthand, Drafting, Auto Mechanics, Welding, English, Social Studies, Science, Mathematics and Business English. At the Albany facility, Offset Duplicating, Keypunch, Typing and Shorthand, Beginning Office Worker, English, Social Studies, Science Mathematics and Business English were offered. At the Schenectady facility, Typing and Shorthand began in May of 1967.
The Albany location initially was at 495 Broadway but had to be moved to 1332 Broadway after a fire destroyed the first facility on February 27, 1966. The Schenectady facility began in the former Jewish Community Center on May 1, 1967. At the time, the center had what was called an Opportunity Van used as a mobile office to assist in a door-to-door recruitment effort in the Albany area. Graduates placed in employment at the end of the first year were earning an average salary of $75 per week.
Since this beginning, new programs have been added including College Preparation, High School Equivalency, Reading Preparation, Academic Preparation, English as a Second Language, Basic Education, Cosmetology, Esthetician, Nursing Assistant, Medical Records, Building Trades, Life Skills and Culinary Training. Other programs were discontinued due to lack of enrollment or sufficient employment opportunities. Programs also have moved from all of their original locations in Troy to 431 River Street in 1984. In Albany, programs were moved from Broadway to Central Avenue to Russell Road. The Schenectady program was closed by Schenectady County Community College.
Over its 44 years, the EOC not only improved its facilities to create an atmosphere more conducive to learning, but also offered programs and services that have resulted in countless success stories. Thousands of people from the inner cities and the seven-county area have benefited from the Center’s programs and it is our continued privilege to serve them.
The scope of the Center’s and the students’ success can be measured by the fact we have served more than 45,500 individuals with more than 25,500 graduates and 14,000 placements. The EOC annually enrolls approximately 1000 individuals, with an average age of 30. The clients served are from a diverse population including 37 percent white; 40 percent black or African-American; 8.6 percent Hispanic and 8.2 percent Asian. Of this group, 13.5 percent receive social services funding, 22 percent receive social security, and 41 percent are head(s) of household. The average annual income when students enroll is approximately $15,000. Annually approximately 200 individuals are placed in employment. Salaries range from $16,000 to $43,000. A number of individuals continue their education in college or other post-secondary institutions.
Through the years, the Center staff has been dedicated to its mission. Most importantly, the students who have entered our doors have been extremely successful and are the pride of the Educational Opportunity Center.