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EOC commencement highlights opportunities and success

Photo courtesy of UB

UB's Educational Opportunity Center educates 1,900 each year, with many of the students over the age of 25.  At commencement last week, the EOC honored a past graduate whose success has defied labels.

A 1975 graduate of the EOC, Zola Lowery Crowell was honored at commencement with the Arthur O. Eve Education and Community Service Award. While her work has earned recognition from the Library of Congress and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, her educational path was blocked almost from the beginning.

As a child in the 1950's, she was mistakenly categorized as a special education student.

"I do recall when I was in first grade, the teacher read a book called 'The Box Car Children.' These children were abandoned for whatever reason living in a box car," Crowell recalled.

"I thought I was in a box of special education."

As an adult, she sought to take a career step, only to be thwarted by her lack of a high school diploma.

Enter, the Educational Opportunity Center.

"When I walked through the doors of the EOC, I immediately connected with them as a family."

She has since enjoyed a successful career and made an impact with her community efforts. Her genealogical work has drawn attention.  The manuscript of her research of her family has been recognized by the Library of Congress.

Her curiosity started with a photo of her great-great grandmother Charity Butler who was born in 1850. From there, she traced Charity Butler's parents to a slave owner, Pierce Butler, one of the signers of the U.S. Constitution.

For this year's EOC graduates, Crowell offered a forward-thinking message.

"To all of the people who come from a situation similar to mine: continue to believe in yourself.," Crowell said.

"And to teachers, when you see that child who needs an extra push, give him that because you never know what they are going though."