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Image: EOP E-Newsletter. Educational Opportunity Program, California State University, Long Beach. (group of students)

Live Tomorrow What you Dream Today

Mark Emtiaz

Mark Emtiaz


Pursuing your dreams seemed to be the theme of this year’s EOP Graduate Recognition Day. The annual event celebrates the achievements of the EOP graduating seniors. During 2005-06‚ more than 400 EOP students successfully completed their degrees and moved on to pursue graduate education or start their careers.

The 18th annual EOP Graduate Recognition Day took place on May 9. The University Student Union was filled with approximately 300 guests‚ including graduates‚ families‚ friends‚ staff and faculty. As in previous years‚ an EOP alumnus and three students were selected to speak at the ceremony. The keynote speaker was Mark Emtiaz‚ CSULB class of 1989 graduate. Currently the founder‚ CEO and president of Pacific World Trade‚ Inc.‚ a general trading and investment company‚ Emtiaz challenged the graduates and guests to focus on dreaming for the future. “You are at the beginning of a great and enjoyable road. What I can tell you is that if you havenít already—dream. Start to dream. Dream about the next 17 years because boy‚ it goes by fast‚” he advised the graduates. Emtiaz engaged the graduates‚ “If you donít dream‚ life will take you where it wants to take you. If you dream and stay determined‚ you will be in the driverís seat. That is the difference.”

Reaching his dreams did not come easily for Emtiaz. He recalled a December 1987 accident that caused him serious physical injury. Despite this obstacle‚ he continued his college education without taking a break. Emtiaz emphasized the importance of this level of dedication. “Staying focused‚ having a dream‚ and being determined are very key ingredients in getting where you want to be‚” he said.

Xiomar and Zion

Xiomar and Zion

An example of this type of determination is graduate and Recognition Day speaker‚ Xiomara Cornejo. She dives into her dreams‚ as is evident by her accolades. Cornejo has received awards and scholarships for her involvement in leadership and community service. This past spring‚ she obtained a degree in theatre directing and continued moving toward her dream of opening a non-profit organization that exposes inner-city youth to the arts. Cornejo intends to work with low-income and first-generation youth. She values the influence EOP has on its students. “Overcoming obstacles is not what defines usómerely some of the perks. EOP does an excellent job of acknowledging not only what we donít have‚ but what we do have. That‚ my friend‚ is an ardent appetite for success‚” Cornejo said. “I feel that EOPís contribution to our appetite for successóthe greatest contributionóis the faith they have in us.” During fall 2006‚ Cornejo will attend USC to pursue a masterís in public art studies.

Among others who are achieving their dreams is graduate and student speaker‚ Zion Redie. She was the 2006 recipient of the Advancement of Women Award by the CSULB Presidentís Commission on the Status of Women. Redie acknowledged that many graduates may have five‚ 10 and 15-year plans or dreams for their lives. However‚ she questioned the number of students who have EOP and similar programs in their plans. “I challenge you‚ EOP graduates of CSULB‚ to have pride in your university‚ but also to have pride in the program that has assisted you to get where you are today‚” she said. “It is our responsibility to carry the torch and give back to EOP because the reality is that no one will understand EOP students as we do.” Redie’s heartfelt words displayed sincerity and a strong commitment to ensuring that there will be the same opportunities for future “dreamers.”

—Hillina Jarso is a counselor for the Educational Opportunity Program.