An air of authority, a disarming smile, easy laughter and a good fashion sense are not the characteristics you’d typically expect from a director of a program such as the Extended Opportunity Programs and Services, or E.O.P.S. here at COC.
But, you wouldn’t expect her history as a victim of domestic violence either.
Yet there they stand, stitched together in a fabric known as Dr. Pamela Brogdon-Wynne.
She, along with her five-woman team of analysts and counselors, direct the COC branch of E.O.P.S., the program which helps with financial woes and the overall pursuit of higher education for students who come from a disadvantaged background.
Eligible students in this program receive benefits such as book vouchers, counseling and free scholastic materials.
In order for a student to be eligible for the E.O.P.S. program they will have to meet the following criteria: be educationally disadvantaged, have low-income, be enrolled in 12 units or more, have completed fewer than 50 degree applicable units, and must be a resident of California.
With about 300 students currently enrolled in the program, they can use all the financial help they can get.
Needless to say, when a 40 percent decrease cut into their budget a few years ago, it definitely didn’t help their cause.
Aside from dealing with the duties of directing a program, Brogdon-Wynne is still hard at work trying to resolve this ongoing financial dilemma.
“We struggled through it, we kept our students, we maintained our programs as best we could,” she recalls.
She meets with local representatives for the passing of state assembly bill 490, which petitions for the restoration of the funds.
Though five years have passed and hardly any change has come to the program’s budget, she remains optimistic in her quest to restore these funds.
To many, this challenge may seem too tiresome. But she’s no stranger to challenges.
Many years ago, she left Ohio and set off for California with her two young daughters and a van, effectively ending a nightmarish relationship with her first husband. After years of physical and emotional abuse, after being degraded and finding herself almost helpless, the conflicted Brogdon-Wynne made the decision to “just do it” and leave.
“I felt that nothing could be worse than being in an abusive relationship and teaching my children that abuse was right.” She says.
Her inner motivation finally clicked within her once she could, “look forward to a new and exciting life without fear.”
Though originally a school teacher, she turned to consistent journaling for emotional expression. It was through her reflections that she found a new passion in helping others through their personal problems.
She once had difficulty in her academic journey, too.
Brogdon-Wynne was the first person in her family to pursue higher education.
She hails from a blue-collar town in Ohio, where from a young age the importance of education was instilled within her.
“My father taught me to be all I could be,” she said. “My grandmother encouraged me to turn obstacles into stepping stones.”
Today, she has a doctorate degree in higher education to show for her effort.
“I learned that all things are possible if you keep putting one foot in front of the other,” she recalls.
“Helping others reach their goals is my passion.” She says.
This passion is exactly what attracts her to E.O.P.S.
“Just do it.” She tells me when I ask her how it is that she will accomplish her numerous tasks.
This is the mantra to which she accredits all her accomplishments to. This same mantra is one that she tells her students at the program.
She emphasizes that she enjoys especially helping those student who find their academic career at risk. Those who find difficulty in trekking through their academic journey.
Case in point, student Joe Garcia was having issues with paying for books and getting the right classes. Coming from a single parent, low-income home, Garcia never had the financial security to afford him a college education neither the guidance that comes along with it. The program provided him with book vouchers, mapped out his classes for the year, and provided support on how to fill out the financial aid forms. Now Garcia is a junior and is getting ready to transfer to a university. He is one of the many students that have succeeded in their college careers with the help of E.O.P.S.
“This program has definitely changed my life for the better,” said Garcia.
He says before joining E.O.P.S. he was always limited to how long he could speak to counselors at the admissions and records office and he was never able to get the same attention to detail as he does with the counselors at E.O.P.S.
Brogdon-Wynne mentions of the time when one student came into her office because they couldn’t find work. She helped the student out with building her resume and referred her to many paid internships and part-time jobs. She was able to find the student a paid internship.
“My motivation is that all things are possible. The only way you will not succeed is if you give up.” She said.
As for those who find themselves caught in a rut?
“Just take a deep breath, focus, ask yourself, ‘Why am I here?’,” she said. “Just say, ‘I can do this and buckle down and finish.”
She laughs an easy strum of amusement.
“Let’s just do it.”