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'It's a family': NOAH Program creates cohort for students

“I was enrolled in a college access program called Bottom Line,” said Breanna Toney, a sophomore entrepreneurship major originally from East Flatbush, Brooklyn. “I was told about Hofstra from one of my local friends and she expressed that we should apply. Then I went to my high school counselor and he said that I should apply through the NOAH program.”

NOAH, which stands for New Opportunities at Hofstra, is a scholarship program. The comprehensive program funds and advises students from underprivileged backgrounds, offering financial and social support. Room and board, tuition, meal plans and a stipend for books and supplies are all allocated through Hofstra. The program, which includes a group interview process, covers students for four and a half years at the university.

“This was my first group interview for a college, and technically we came in not knowing what to expect,” Toney said. “I came in professionally dressed and we sat in one of the 140 rooms in the student center. We were asked a series of questions, but one question that stood out to me was when Mr. Smith asked, ‘What would you do if you were sitting in the exit row of life?’ That question to me was the most mind-boggling question to ask a high school senior, but he wanted to know whether or not we would risk our lives or be that person who fights for everyone else and takes responsibility.”

The application process for the NOAH program is straightforward; it’s just like any typical college application, but applicants must demonstrate an interest in the program. There is also the NOAH supplement, which is a writing sample between 200 and 500 words.

“NOAH to me is more than somebody giving me a handout; it’s a family. It is integrated into us through our summer program. During our summer program, we understand that NOAH is more than someone just handing you money to go to school. It’s a program and a family that you’re inserting yourself into, and something that you’re going to be a part of for life,” Toney said.

 Once accepted into Hofstra as a NOAH scholar, students must complete a five-week summer academy prior to entering Hofstra in the fall. The students get the chance to get a feel of the campus before arriving and they are given peer mentor counselors, who are upperclassman in the NOAH program. The counselors mentor the incoming students and assist them throughout the summer classes.  

“We’re required to take four classes: two university classes, a math workshop class and an English workshop class,” Toney said. “We’re taught to improve our study habits and [how to get] out of old habits that we were used to in high school, like being on your phone all the time rather than doing homework, how to be active and efficient and [we got to learn] about untold history. The summer program is super eye opening; you don’t come back the same .”

This past summer, Toney had the opportunity to give back to incoming first-year NOAH students by taking on the role of a summer mentor. “Being a mentor, actually, I didn’t know what to expect. I was fresh out of the summer program myself so coming in I was like ‘OK what can I do to enhance the summer program, and what can I do to keep the tradition of NOAH?’

I found myself being a lot more personable with students because I understood firsthand what they were going through. I know what it’s like to sit at a desk and study for hours, which I had to do last summer,” she said. “I was able to teach them so much, like tolerance, how to focus and [be] proactive students on campus. I learned so much from them as well because there were certain things about myself that I didn’t even know, and they taught me so much. It was so great.”

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