UNM College Enrichment and Outreach Programs help first generation college students pursue secondary education. These programs help students obtain GEDs and apply for financial aid and admission to college. Funding comes from a federal TRIO grant from the United States Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education. CEOP encompasses several programs.

The Educational Opportunity Center is fully funded through a $26,000 annual grant from the U.S. Department of Education under the Higher Education Act of 1965. The center helps first generation students from low-income families in Bernalillo, Valencia and Torrance counties. To qualify, students must be 19 or older.

Though affiliated with UNM, CEOP staff aren't recruiters. They help people apply to the college of their choice.

Juana Maria De La Cruz, CEOP advisor, works with La Colmena, a private organization that helps with community affairs and services.

"La Colmena, Inc. is a program offering a life skills class for people who receive TANF because they are required to do a certain amount of hours of community service, study – either in college or toward a GED – to continue receiving welfare," she said. Together La Colmena and CEOP provide assistance to families receiving assistance who have students in school. Life classes help students become more successful in school and life.

CEOP provides outreach activities and presentations that get community groups, veteran organizations and government support service participants involved. Outreach activities close the gap between those involved in the program and those needing assistance. CEOP also meets with UNM student groups to find new ways of reaching out to those in need.

"Our efforts have gotten our name and reputation for excellent service out to the community, and we regularly have people contacting us, looking for support for themselves, their parents or friends," said Ryan Gilbert, CEOP program specialist. "There is a deep desire in the people that come to us. They are pursuing the promise that college offers, the jobs that pay more and the benefits that they can have to support their families. We do what we can to remove roadblocks from their way."

Story Shelby Scheider