Hamilton is among several private colleges in New York State that administer the Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program, known on the Hill as simply “the Opportunity Program” or just “OP.” The Opportunity Program, designed to support students whose transition from high school to college may be made more difficult by their educational, socioeconomic, or personal circumstances, helps 30 to 40 new students each year acclimate to the College’s academic standards and social life.

This year, as the program marks its 55th anniversary, Alejandro Sosa Hernández ’26, an OP student himself, caught up with fellow OP participants Kelvin Nuñez ’24 and Meg Lambert ’27, who recently partnered with Director Aaron Ray to create a podcast called Opportunity on the Mic. Here Hernández talks with them about their experiences.

Portions of their discussion have been paraphrased, rearranged, and/or omitted for clarity.

Alejandro Sosa Hernández ’26 student writer Alejandro Sosa Hernandez
What value do you see in this podcast?

Aaron Ray: The main value is that our students have a platform to tell their stories authentically and directly. It is a platform for us to celebrate our program, our history, and those in the past and present who have made the program what it is today. It serves as a way to engage with our alumni network and for prospective students and counselors to learn more about our program. So really, our audience is pretty much everyone, whether it’s members of the campus community or folks who are aspiring to be a member of our community.

Nuñez: The value comes from the voice. It comes from amplifying our community. We can make people feel that they are not alone in their experiences, doubts, or questions. We answer a lot of questions for our current Opportunity Program students and prospective students. We even touch on things that alumni want to know as well. I also think it’s cool that we have Aaron, our director, so engaged and showing up every Monday to lend his voice to students, interviewing students, showing that he’s interested in us and that he cares.

Lambert:  There’s great value in that [platform] specifically coming from us. As a community, we are a wide spectrum of people who touch a lot of communities on campus, so this podcast helps make sure that we can enter those spaces with confidence because we have been authentically heard and seen. The podcast aims to empower people, and we can use that to impact the greater world, or even just the campus.

What kind of feedback have you received?

Ray: So far, the response has been super positive. Folks enjoy it. I have friends who are college access counselors in New York City who hit me up when we don’t release a new episode! Students are excited to hear their episodes carried out with their friends and their families. The faculty have told me that they enjoy hearing from our students, whether they’re students they had during the summer program or students from the academic year. Actually, we have a student currently enrolled in the program who heard our podcast while she was still in high school and that’s what made her want to be a part of the Opportunity Program.

Nuñez: When I saw Aaron’s first LinkedIn post about the podcast, there were these comments that really impacted me. They were from people who worked in opportunity programs statewide and who were champions for it. It just touched my heart that we’re not only doing this for people on Hamilton’s campus, we could also be influencing other opportunity programs to have their own platform and their own voice to touch on their own histories. That feedback is what makes you keep going.

Lambert: I find the most rewarding feedback that I’ve been able to experience is the interest of people to actually join and be on the podcast. We had a sign-up sheet that people could use to be featured on the podcast, but then word of mouth became an effective tool to get people interested, too. After our guests get past their public speaking nerves, they leave feeling empowered, which is what we really want people to feel.

It taught me the power of being genuine and engaged in conversations with people. When you sit down and want to listen to someone, they will open up to you. Everyone has something that’s happened or have had events in life or a journey that you can relate to. Being engaged with other people builds so many more bridges than you could ever anticipate.

Kelvin Nunez ’24 Kelvin Nuñez ’24
What is your favorite episode or greatest hit in your opinion?

Ray: We haven’t even released it yet. There’s an interview with Toni Bullock ’08. She dropped some incredible gems for everyone, whether you’re a current student, a prospective student, alum, or a faculty member. I’m super excited for that episode to come out, but I also want to release it at the right time! Right now, we think we’re going to release it as a special episode. But really, there hasn’t been a not great episode. We’ve had our students share their poetry, sing, rap, do character voices, share their experiences, their joys, their struggles.

Nuñez: My favorite is a little bit of a throwback. A year ago, I interviewed Bette Ecklund, OP educational and supportive services counselor. Her energy was so caring and so loving, and I got to learn about how her core principle is that you treat the person before you treat the issue.

Lambert: I have a favorite episode — Kahleel [Bernard ’23]’s! I love it because they have such great energy and such a great voice. When we gave them our rapid fire questions, we got the entire picture.

Alejandro Sosa Hernández ’26 and Aaron Ray
Alejandro Sosa Hernández ’26 talks with Director of Opportunity Programs Aaron Ray. Photo: Kevin M. Waldron
What have you learned by doing this?

Ray: Podcasts are a lot of work. When we sit and listen to a podcast, we just get to sit and enjoy it, but you don’t really think about all the work that goes into planning the episode, recruiting the people to be on it, the editing, the marketing… It is a huge time commitment. I’m very fortunate to have worked with Kelvin as we launched the podcast, and now I get to continue the podcast with Meg.

Lambert: I’ve learned that you can always create a home — I didn’t think a podcast could feel like a home — no matter who you are or where you are. You can create a space for yourself and the people who are like you.

Has anything surprised you about the process?

Nuñez: What surprised me a lot was when we implemented the rapid-fire questions, everyone’s responses are always so different. Everyone’s going to have their own unique response to anything you can throw at them. You ask someone a question, and they give you an answer that you never could’ve thought of. One time, we had Anais Geronimo ’25 in, and we asked her, “If you could talk to animals, and you had to convince the rest of the world that you could, how would you do it?” and she said, “I’m not going to convince the world. I’m going to convince the children, because the children will become the world.” She blew my mind. I thought that was really funny and really cool. Just how much everyone can infuse their own wit and mind into their own answers is what’s blown me away.

Kelvin, how did the podcast change after Meg became a part of it?

Nuñez: It was way more fun! Meg was always there, so it was so nice to have support whenever I needed someone to fill in as a co-host. Meg would have ideas and let me know what could resonate with interviewees and the audience. Also, when Meg came on, it felt like the podcast was finally certified as something Aaron wanted to keep alive, and that was awesome! I know from Meg’s character and from the moment I met her that she had passion and she cared and was genuine.

Meg, what was it like for you to step into the role of new host? How did it happen?

Lambert: It was the end of the summer when they announced this position, and I remember thinking that I wanted a position where I could be interacting with people. I talk all the time. When I get comfortable with people, I just don’t stop. However, when I stepped into the host role after shadowing for a semester, I remember just being terrified. I thought, how am I going to continue this? Kelvin created a whole training schedule. It was quite rigid. He’s a great professor. I have since grown in my comfort as a speaker and in my comfort with Aaron and all our guests, and knowing that I always have his shoulder to lean on is valuable.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Ray: The reason we started the podcast is because there’s a lot of misconceptions about our program. There are people who feel like it’s a diversity program when we’re not a diversity program. We are a highly diverse program, but that’s more of a reflection on capitalism than on the intentions of our program. Our program is celebrating its 55th birthday. We are one of the oldest programs on campus. We’re before the Writing Center, before the QSR, before Posse, before QuestBridge … and yet, I got the sense when I arrived that people didn’t necessarily know about our program, how it operates, or why it exists. Sitting down with Kelvin and sort of just reflecting on his experiences with people not understanding what OP is was how this podcast was born. It was a way to provide a platform for our students but also a relatively easy and asynchronous way to educate members of our campus community. If people are interested in learning more about our program, they have over 22 episodes to learn from.

Opportunity on
the Mic

The podcast features interviews with faculty, students, and alumni involved with OP.

Listen on Spotify
Listen on Apple Podcasts

Nuñez: The podcast is a beacon in a belonging but it also represents where we want to end up — that is, in a place where these conversations about who we are and what we do are happening all the time and outside of the podcast room as well. I’m noticing a shift away from small, exclusive cliques toward a program-wide unity that starts in the summer program. We’re going into a much more positive direction that’s nurturing our students.

Lambert: There are a lot of misconceptions about what OP is now, and there is a lot of history about higher education opportunity programs. We aim to disrupt the narratives that exist about what it means to be a part of an opportunity program, and the hard thing about those narratives is that they’re not accurate because they’re not coming from us. Our actions also speak louder than words; we have a podcast where we talk and talk, and that shows that our students are very engaged outside of our program community. Social justice-oriented people, STEM-oriented people…we’re all touching the other communities we thrive in. So this is a place where we celebrate ourselves and acknowledge that we’re more than just Opportunity Program students.

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