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Since our GED blog post was so popular, we wanted to take this opportunity to provide all of you with an exclusive interview with Chelsea Lancaster, Student Program Advisor and SPARC Coordinator for EOPS, a state-funded program that provides support for Santa Barbara City College’s low-income, single parent population.

Can you describe what the EOPS program is and what you offer?

The Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS) is a state-funded support program designed to provide academic support, financial assistance and encouragement for eligible, financially disadvantaged, and academically underprepared students. The goal of the program is to help eligible students meet their educational objectives, whether they seek occupational certificates, associate degrees or to transfer to four-year institutions. Our mission is to provide above-and-beyond support services to eligible, academically and economically under-prepared students to achieve their educational goals.

If I had to describe EOPS with one word, I would say it’s a family. We aim to create a crucial web of support for students who might not be able to pursue their educational goals due to a variety of barriers they face. I am personally a product of EOPS/CARE and really believe they make all the difference.

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How long has the program been around?

EOPS is a product of the Civil Rights Movement and has been around since the 1960s.

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What type of student enters into the EOPS program?

All kinds! We serve a wide variety of students from low-income, academically underrepresented backgrounds. Some of our students are just graduating high school, whereas others are returning to school after a long absence. Most are the first in their families to pursue higher education. EOPS serves aged-out Foster Youth through our Guardian Scholars Program. We also service eligible Dreamers.

Information on our three comprehensive (and very fun!) summer bridge programs are as follows:

  1. The Running Start program is geared toward working with local high school students completing the 12th grade.
  2. The SPARC (Single Parents Arriving Ready for College) program serves single parent students.
  3. The Transitions program is designed to work with individuals released from the California criminal justice system and/or those with substance abuse issues.

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Can you describe what the CARE program is and what you offer?

CARE is an additional state-funded program within EOPS, which provides additional support for SBCC’s low-income, single parent population. The CARE program provides educational support services designed for the academically underprepared. Financial assistance and childcare may be awarded as a means of strengthening the retention, persistence, graduation, and transfer rates. Students participating in CARE may choose to pursue a vocational certificate or license, an associate degree, or transfer to a four-year university.

We also offer a Thanksgiving Dinner Giveaway for CARE families annually, in addition to a children’s book event at Christmas time. We have a Club as an additional support system, which allows single parent students to connect, empower, and support each other in a variety of ways.

How long has the CARE program been around?

CARE has been around as long as EOPS.

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How long have you been working in the EOPS and CARE programs? What is your job title?

I have been at SBCC for many years serving low-income families in a few different capacities since 2002. I started as a part-time peer advisor when I was an SBCC student and was fortunate enough to continue working there even after transferring to UCSB. I became a full-time Student Program Advisor in the CalWORKs Program in 2007 and was moved up to EOPS in 2012, where I assumed the CARE student caseload (in addition to CalWORKs).

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What makes you want to do this work?

I became a mom at the age of 17, in a very abusive relationship. Getting an education was the best thing I was every able to do for both myself and my daughter. I want the families I serve to be able to enjoy the empowerment and opportunity college afforded us. It was in college that I found myself and realized that being a teen mom didn’t mean I couldn’t have a promising future; my journey wasn’t right or wrong, it was just different! I can honestly say I look forward to coming to EOPS every day.

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When passion meets profession, you’ll never work a day in your life!

Can you describe the usual struggles that keep people from graduating from the program?

Single parents face a variety of struggles including housing instability, financial problems, unhealthy relationships, lack of adequate childcare, drug and alcohol issues, low self-esteem, and lack of support. In EOPS, we try to work with students to troubleshoot the barriers they face and provide necessary financial, educational, and emotional support to help them succeed.

Can you describe a success story that you experienced in EOPS or CARE?

There are so many! Below, you will find a donor thank you card, which highlights a beautiful success story in the student’s own words.

EOPS Success Story Letter

How do students enroll in either of these programs? And what is the cost?

There is no cost to enroll in EOPS. Students typically start the Steps to Enrollment to SBCC, then come see us once they are in their classes and have completed the application for Financial Aid (FAFSA). We understand that the enrollment process can be overwhelming, however, any student who needs assistance can come see us!

What advice would you give to students who could be seeking these types of programs?

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Don’t be afraid to take that step, and don’t hesitate to ask for help along the way!

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