“It’s so important to have you here and we appreciate your generosity in letting us guide your children.”

The earnest welcome offered by Phyllis Breland ’80, director of Opportunity Programs and interim director of Diversity and Inclusion at Hamilton established the framework for the 10th annual Parents’ Connected Day on April 9. More than 60 Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) students and their families reunited for a day filled with information sessions, networking and student performances.

President Joan Hinde Stewart also praised Breland and the HEOP office’s dedication to creating an inclusive and stimulating environment for the students. “I have come to admire very deeply her directness, approach, generosity and her deep care for people,” said Stewart.. “You know your students are in good hands with Phyllis and her team.”

A reception was held in the Science Center Atrium where students and their families were able to network with Hamilton alumni, faculty and special guest Ronald Kim, who graduated from Hamilton in 2002 and was a member of HEOP. Kim is the first and only Korean-American assemblyman in New York State. He is also the first recipient of the Through the Doors of Opportunity, a recently established award given to HEOP students in recognition of their accomplishments and imprint on the world. Parents’ Connected Day was Kim’s first return to campus since being elected to the state legislature. “This is a very beautiful moment for me,” Kim remarked. “I’m so grateful for my time at Hamilton. Hamilton opened their arms and allowed me to grow as an individual and to also fail. They gave me the tools and characteristics to be resilient and purposeful in life,” he said.

Following the reception HEOP students offered performances in the Chapel, ranging from spoken word and monologues to musical duets. As Parents’ Connected Day came to a close, students and their families gathered to reflect on the day, ask any lingering questions, and watch a video documenting the first-years’ experience in the five-week intensive summer program.

Breland ended the day proclaiming her gratitude and love for both the HEOP students and their families. “I can’t thank you enough for letting us into your lives. Take a piece of me with you, because you are all here with me.”

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