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Skidmore College

Skidmore’s Opportunity Program family

August 21, 2019
by Toyin Aminatu Koleoso '22

Family isn’t always about blood relations — it's about the relationships and bonds we create with people around us. Skidmore's Opportunity Program is my campus family.

We are OP scholars — students from all races, genders, religions and backgrounds. We are high academic achievers, athletes and musicians. 

We become part of the OP family because of the individual potential the Opportunity Program sees in each of us when we apply to Skidmore.

This program makes college education accessible to talented and motivated students who have the potential to succeed at Skidmore despite economic, social, financial or other obstacles.

To help us succeed, we attend the five-week mandatory Summer Academic Institute. The SAI is a very structured, rigorous program where all incoming OP scholars spend almost 12 hours a day in classes on topics ranging from Introduction to Anthropology to Biostatistics.

This summer, 40 new members of our OP family completed the academic program.

Even though the SAI is intensive and may be emotionally and mentally taxing, it fosters a strong bond among Opportunity Program students and creates a sense of family. Some of us even affectionately refer to OP Director Kelli Johnson as “Mama Kelli.”

As a family, we're there for one other — from the beginning throughout college and beyond.

Students in Skidmore’s Opportunity Program

OP scholars celebrate the completion of the Summer Academic Institute.


What does the Opportunity Program mean to you? 


Cambel IribukaCambel Iribuka '20


International Affairs and French

For me, the Opportunity Program is like a family. It is a separate family away from my own family. Academically and emotionally, OP students and staff are there for support and to help in any way they can. I know I wouldn't have made it as far at Skidmore without them.

What made the Opportunity Program family for me was the Summer Academic Institute. I came in with the mindset that I wasn't built for college, and I got exposed to some of the hardest reading and writing assignments I ever had to do in my life.

The summer program helped me realize how rigorous courses in college can be and the level of seriousness I was going to need in order to succeed at Skidmore. I feel like the SAI also gave me valuable life lessons, such as time management and self-care. It helped a lot with my transition into college.

Spending all that time together brought me closer to the people who will be sitting next to me on the graduation stage four years later. We became a family because we went through the same struggles and the same classes together.

Marianna SantostefanoMarianna Santostefano '20

Long Island, New York

Sociology, with a minor in Management and Business

To me, the Opportunity Program was a chance to show the world what I am capable of.

OP has given me a chance, despite my family’s economic status, to prove that my intelligence, drive and commitment are well suited for Skidmore.

OP is 100% a family. It is comforting to know I have a large group of people I can always count on. The comfort within our relationships allows for jokes and laughs, but also for confiding and mentoring opportunities.

The Summer Academic Institute was very difficult for me. I woke up early in the morning, participated in college classes all day and went to sleep in the late hours of the night because I had to complete my work for the next day. However, come fall semester, I felt as though I had jumped right into it and found that the following semester was easier for me.

The SAI also helped me get acquainted with my peers and form connections that have lasted throughout college. It helped me get adjusted to living away from home.

Joseph HernandezJoseph Hernandez '19

Corona, Queens, New York City

Management and Business

OP means home for me. I don’t mean home by the four walls, but home by the heart.

I am proud of becoming a student at Skidmore College. From my first steps at Skidmore, the staff of the Opportunity Program received me with open arms and made Skidmore feel more like a home away from home.

I didn’t know about the Opportunity Program when I was accepted to Skidmore. I just got a letter saying I was accepted to this program and I had to come in the summer.

When I reflect on my Summer Academic Institute experience, I must say it was an intensive summer for me. The work that we do — some of us might be prepared for it, while some of us might not be.

The Summer Academic Institute helped me realize that I wasn’t accepted to Skidmore just to get a degree. I was accepted because of what everyone believes I can do next." —Joseph Hernandez '19* 

My professional goals are to have a career committed to purpose: to do my part in creating a society in which no matter who you are, you can follow your dreams, no matter what they are.

*Joseph will be working for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation in Seattle in the fall.

Students in Skidmore's Opportunity Program

The end of the Summer Academic Institute was marked by a "Togawood" celebration.

About the Author

Toyin Koleoso

Toyin Koleoso, from Nigeria, is studying international affairs and business at Skidmore. She says Skidmore comes with many homes and families. For her, that's fellow Opportunity Program scholars and her T-bred women's basketball teammates. 

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