Renamed KU Center continues its mission to expand educational opportunities for Kansans

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Lawrence, Kans. – Despite a name change, expanding the educational opportunities of all Kansas students and adult learners continues to be the focus of a newly-renamed center at the University of Kansas.

Educational Opportunity Programs recently became the Center for Educational Opportunity Programs (CEOP), while continuing its commitment to equal opportunity and promoting excellence and diversity in education. Formerly part of the Institute for Educational Research and Public Service (IERPS), established in 1997 by the School of Education, the Center was renamed after IERPS merged with the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation to become the Achievement and Assessment Institute (AAI). The Center is one of AAI’s four centers.

“The Center for Educational Opportunity Programs is about opening access to low-income students, first-generation students, and students with disabilities,” said Ngondi Kamatuka, director of CEOP. “The Achievement and Assessment Institute is a natural fit for us because it speaks to who we are and what we stand for, which is to educate all children. As part of the AAI, we can tap into the expertise of the larger institute. This is a golden opportunity for us to expand our vision, expand opportunities, and serve more students in Kansas.”

The Center’s nine programs serve pre-college students from the 6th to 12th grade, college students, veterans, and adult learners wishing to advance their education. It partners with more than 70 community agencies and schools in the region, including school districts in Lawrence, Topeka, and Kansas City, Kansas.

Program services include educational information, counseling, academic instruction, tutoring, assistance in applying for financial aid, parent workshops, and supportive encouragement to both students and their families.

One of those students is Adam Nicholson, 28, an undergraduate student majoring in sociology who was the first member of his family to attend college. After four years as a Marine, he decided to pursue his dream of a higher education at KU, where he found the McNair Scholar’s Program, a CEOP program.

“The change from where I began, to where I am today is amazing, and due largely to the mentorship of the McNair Scholar’s Program staff,” Nicholson said. “I began this journey as a first generation college student, struggling to fit in, in a new environment, and I am now a confident young scholar with a promising future.” Nicholson graduates this month and will pursue a doctoral degree at Indiana University in the fall.

“The Center for Educational Opportunity Programs has a long history of assisting Kansans in addressing a myriad of academic, economic, and social barriers they may face on their path toward higher education,” said Neal Kingston, director of AAI. “These programs, under the leadership of Ngondi Kamatuka, will continue to be essential if we are to increase access to higher education for all Kansans. Moreover, we believe the lessons we learn when we implement and scientifically evaluate the efficacy of these programs in Kansas will benefit similar programs both in other states and throughout the world.” 

The Center is led by Ngondi Kamatuka, who came to the United States from Namibia and began his 26-year-tenure at KU as a part-time academic advisor in the Center’s first program, Upward Bound, for which he later became director. “When I finished my doctoral degree at KU, I felt like it was my calling to be a part of Upward Bound and my dedication to serving students has continued ever since,” Kamatuka said.

Besides teaching in the School of Education for 15 years, he has received several awards and honors, including the KU Unclassified Employee of the Year, the KU School of Education Achievement Award for professional staff, and Outstanding Educator for the KU Chapter of Phi Delta Kappa. Kamatuka has served as president of the Mid-America Association of Educational Opportunity Program Personnel, and as chairman of the board of directors for the Council for Opportunity in Education.

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