Charter Members to be Inducted into Zeta Pi Chapter of Chi Alpha Epsilon National Honor Society

A lifelong resident of Trenton, Ishiya Ashley Hayes was yet a young girl when her mother instilled in her the importance of earning an education and contributing to her community. Simply put, Hayes was taught to make a difference – both in her own life and in the lives of others. At Rutgers–Camden, she found the much-needed support of the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) staff, which helped her to achieve her personal and academic goals – sometimes in her greatest hours of despair. But she also learned that, although others were there to help, she had to do her part.

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Ishiya Ashley Hayes

Endowed with tenacity, Hayes responded in kind by giving back. She served as the state representative for the Rutgers–Camden student chapter of the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group (NJPIRG), where, among her many contributions, she advocated for affordable textbooks, and raised money to combat hunger in the city of Camden. She was also active in the university’s student chapter of Amnesty International, and participated in community and service-learning projects while studying abroad in South Africa.

All the while, Hayes still managed to maintain a 3.63 GPA, while pursuing dual bachelor’s degrees in English and Africana studies, with a minor in sociology. As she nears graduation on May 23, she aspires to a career that stays true to her activism and engages her love of writing, focusing on stories that emphasize the importance of tenacity in spite of one’s circumstances.

On Friday evening, Hayes will be one of 23 Rutgers–Camden honorees to be inducted as charter members of the Zeta Pi chapter of the Chi Alpha Epsilon National Honor Society. Founded in 1989 by Elbert Saddler, a Rutgers–Camden alumnus, Chi Alpha Epsilon recognizes first-generation college students who enter colleges through developmental and opportunity program pathways. The Zeta Pi chapter is open to Rutgers­–Camden students in the EOF and TRiO programs who have a minimum 3.00 cumulative grade point average.

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Dr. Elbert Saddler and his wife, Joyce

Saddler, a 1975 graduate of Rutgers–Camden with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and Rutgers–Camden Chancellor Wendell Pritchett will deliver opening remarks at the ceremony, held during the EOF graduation celebration. Forever known as charter members, Hayes and her fellow honorees will take the society’s oath to continue to excel academically, to promote academic excellence in others, and to help those who genuinely aspire to achieve these goals.

“I cannot fully express how much it means to me to be inducted into an honor society that Dr. Elbert Saddler, a former Rutgers­–Camden student, founded,” she says. “This achievement further supports the fact that EOF students cannot only follow in the footsteps of the ones who came before them, but they can also use the platform to lead others.”

While it is an honor to be recognized as an inductee, it will be a distinguished achievement for the first group of Rutgers–Camden students to receive this honor, says Tammy Russell, the director of the EOF program at Rutgers–Camden. “Graduation is a goal in itself, but being a part of this honor society provides them with an added incentive.”

Chi Alpha Epsilon is recognized as a premiere honor society by a number of national academic organizations, including the Council for Opportunity in Education and the National Association of Developmental Education. Zeta Pi now joins more than 200 chapters nationwide, including those based at Rutgers­–New Brunswick.

According to Russell, the honor society exemplifies Rutgers’ mission of leadership and public service. “We encourage students here to be active and civically engaged,” she says. “It is a mission of the honor society as well, so it will go a long way in helping us to achieve those goals.”

For Russell, the charter resonates with her on a personal level as well, as she too was a first-generation college student. “I never had the opportunity to participate in something like this,” says Russell, who will be inducted as an honorary member, along with Jose Robinson, senior counselor for the EOF program. “It makes me proud to see students who were considered academically at risk achieve such an honor. It proves once again that there should never be this stigma that these students can’t perform, let alone thrive, on this level.”

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Hayes plants a garden with children during a community service project in South Africa

EOF contributes to the development of a college-educated public that reflects the diversity of New Jersey. EOF works in partnership with New Jersey colleges and universities and the K-12 educational system to provide access to higher education for students from families and communities disadvantaged by low-income and the lack of access to the quality educational preparation necessary to attend college. EOF partners with established pre-college efforts and seeks to initiate additional opportunities to identify and prepare students for college at the pre-collegiate level.

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