The true measure of what George Mason University’s Early Identification Program (EIP) will have meant to her family will reverberate long after senior Ingrid Roque-Oviedo’s graduation this week.
The sixth and final of Maria Elena Oviedo and Asension Roque’s six children to have completed the program before going on to graduate from Mason, Roque-Oviedo will graduate with a degree in health administration on Thursday. She’ll proudly follow in the footsteps of her five older siblings who did likewise after completing Mason’s college preparatory program for students who are the first in their families to attend college.
“They’ve all enhanced their life opportunities,” said Khaseem Davis, the director of the Early Identification Program. “I like to say that EIP prepares kids for college, but it impacts students’ lives. That family will never be the same.”
EIP, which lists more than 1,600 graduates from the program, provides access to educational resources for middle school and high school students seeking to augment their life’s possibilities with the addition of a college degree. Services include free SAT prep, after-school tutoring, help with college essays, exposure to different careers and a Summer Academy.
“It was important for my kids to be in the program because it laid the steps for college,” Maria Elena Oviedo said through Rosa Roque, her daughter who was translating for her.
There are currently more than 600 students enrolled in EIP, thanks in large part to the largesse of corporate alliances, individual donors and Mason’s partnership with seven local public school systems in Northern Virginia.
The year-round academic enrichment, personal and social development, civic engagement and leadership training opportunities ready the students for higher education and more productive lives to follow.
That was just what Maria Elena Oviedo had in mind more than 20 years ago when she heeded a friend’s advice and enrolled her oldest child, Janet Oviedo, in the program in 1995. Janet would in 2006 become the first of her children to graduate from Mason, followed by Jessica Valenzuela a year later and Jennifer Roque, Rosa Roque and Ramon Roque in 2013.
“Before [her older siblings enrolled in EIP], there wasn’t very much talk about college,” Rosa Roque said. “[EIP] made [college] an achievable goal for them. They started to see themselves coming to college and having that experience. I feel like without the direction the program gave, it would have been a lot harder for us to find ourselves on that path.”
The Woodbridge, Va., family is a close-knit one, so there was never any problem with younger children following in their siblings’ footsteps. In fact, both Ingrid Roque-Oviedo and Rosa Roque said they often tagged along with their older siblings while they were on the Mason campus attending EIP events. It was that familiarity with the campus starting at a young age that helped prompt them to later attend Mason as well.