My Journey to EOC: Deana Waite

Deana Waite Who would have thought that my path to a successful, productive life, and current role as an Instructional Program Manager for the Adult Education Program at Florida State College at Jacksonville would begin with me passing my GED® exam and earning a high school equivalency diploma in Providence, Rhode Island where finishing high school seemed pointless and paled to the excitement of living the fast life. I was destined to a life of poverty. As a child I dreamed of becoming a teacher. Like so many others, my future did not seem so bright; the older I grew, my dream slowly faded away into my life’s circumstances. Education seemed to be a far reach until I realized I had the power to take charge of my life and my future.

The first step to creating my new destiny was to take my GED® test, pass it, and get my high school equivalency credential. After hard work and studying, I passed and now I had the documentation that said “I completed high school” but, I did not have a clue what to do next. Still easily distracted, I continued on in my reality of the fast life until I gave birth to my daughter in 1995.

At this point, I became responsible for someone else’s future. It was no longer about me, it was about her. How could I provide for her on state assistance? As these thoughts began to weigh heavier, I knew some changes needed to be made. I knew we needed a better life. In fall of 1996, I ran into a former classmate form middle school, told him my situation and he said, “Come see me, I work for Rhode Island Educational Opportunity Center (RI EOC) at the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI).” I was in the right place at the right time! Turns out that was his job, RI EOC assists first generation, low-income students with access to secondary and post-secondary education (any schooling after high graduation).

In January of 1997, I enrolled at the Community College of Rhode Island. As my life continued to unfold, I never took my eyes off the prize, my education. I graduated from CCRI in 2000 with an A.A. in General Studies. It wasn’t easy, I was tired but the struggle was worth it; and the role model I was setting for my children was priceless. I knew I now had the tools to attain a job that would allow me to better provide for my family. At this point, I knew that education was the key to closing my economic gap.

I enrolled in Roger Williams University, began working towards my bachelor’s degree and took a position with AmeriCorps*VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America). This was the best decision I could have made. Even though I still resided in low-income housing and received state benefits, my mind had begun to be transformed. This was another step toward my self-sufficiency. I was working during the day to support my kids and going to school at night. With the encouragement and support of RI EOC, family, and friends, I graduated with a BS in Public Administration in December 2005.

eoc trioThroughout my educational career, RI EOC’s assistance, through the admissions and enrollment process, was instrumental in the success of my educational career. RI EOC, not only helped my through my educational career path, but also, provided me with the opportunity to guide other first generation, low- income students through the same processes as an employee. As a RI EOC Counselor/Coordinator, I changed lives through the services we provided. I would not be where I am today, both, academically as a Doctoral Candidate at the University of North Florida and professionally as an Instructional Program Manager for Adult Education without RI EOC. RI EOC has impacted more than my impacted my future generations. My daughters are, now, eighteen and twenty-two year of age and both understand the value of a college education. My daughters understand RI EOC helped them by assisting their mother with the first step on the pathway out of poverty and to self-sufficiency; a chance to rekindle the dream she once had as a child; an opportunity to a brighter future. TRiO programs, including RI EOC, are the keys that open the doors to all the lost dreams.

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Contact: RIEOC at 401-455-6028

The RI Educational Opportunity Center is a TRIO Student Support Service program funded by the US Department of Education. Send comments and suggestions about this website to

Last Updated: 9/24/18