LaTishe Thorpe is juggling a lot. She's a single mother of five, she works, and she attends Dutchess County Community College. Thanks to the SUNY Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), juggling it all is a lot easier.

"I was scared coming here, I was so scared it wasn't even funny," Thorpe said. "I'm like an old lady. I'm going to college, I'm gonna be there with all these kids."

But EOP changed that.

"It's nice when you walk in somewhere and you know you're not just welcomed but you're loved," Thorpe said. 

EOP programs found on many SUNY campuses provide access to financial aid, support, and free tutoring for low-income or underprivileged students — who otherwise might not thrive in college.

"We have tutoring, which is really cool because sometimes you struggle — especially people like me. I've been out of school for so long and I came back here and I was so scared, and they gave me support immediately," Thorpe said. 

Thorpe's EOP adviser helped her find child care for her youngest child.

"It's an important part of getting through some of the hard times, are the people that stand behind you and EOP is definitely that," Thorpe said. 

Thorpe says she's determined to set an example of hard work for her kids.

"I love it because for your children to see how important something is to you and then to embody that and take it into themselves, it just reinforces for me this was a good decision for me, for them, because I'm leading by example," Thorpe said.

On Thursday, Thorpe's kids will have one more thing to be proud of. That's because she'll share the podium with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie where she will accept the Norman R. McConney, Jr. Award for EOP Student Excellence. A speech she hopes will uplift and inspire in the way EOP has done for her. 

Thorpe also hopes to one day become a social worker so she can help others through life's obstacles.

"I feel like hope is something a lot of people are losing in this day and age and I just wanna be able to help somebody find theirs back," Thorpe said.