UAlbany EOP Student Overcame Lung Cancer and Homelessness 

 Looking Forward to Bright Future in Graduate School

With encouragement and support from UAlbany's highly successful EOP, English major Cedric Walton has triumphed over lung cancer and homelessness to graduate as a member of the Class of 2015. (Photo by Mark Schmidt)

 ALBANY, N.Y. (May 14, 2015) – A University at Albany senior who graduates Sunday, May 17 has a compassionate perspective gained from personal experience that will serve him well in his pursuit of becoming a social worker.

Only three when he lost his mother to AIDS, Cedric Walton was raised by his grandmother, Carolyn Gray. He is the first person in his family to go to college. While “Ceddie” was still in high school at Frederick Douglass Academy, he lived in a homeless shelter with her. Then he was diagnosed with lung cancer.

Walton missed a month during his senior year in high school to have lung surgery. Despite a painful recovery, his high school principal Gregory Hodge allowed him to come to school and use his computer in order to catch up on his work, while advisers worked feverishly calling colleges with his unique story to meet deadlines for college applications.

Today, Walton is cancer-free.

Walton earned an academic scholarship at UAlbany through the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP). The EOP is an undergraduate admissions program for economically and educationally disadvantaged students of all races and cultural backgrounds who are residents of New York State. It also provides support services designed to help students who need assistance in academic, financial, social and personal matters. Among the hallmarks of UAlbany’s highly successful EOP are high graduation and retention rates.

Walton, raised in The Bronx and now a resident of Albany, will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in English, and his family, including his beloved grandmother, will be cheering from the stands.

Why the switch from English to social welfare?

“I took a community service class and realized I want to be directly involved in helping people. I wouldn’t be here right now if not for the help I had in high school, from my teachers, my principal, my family back home, EOP counselors, residential life staff, and my professors and friends at UAlbany,” he said. Of EOP Director Maritza Martinez in particular, he said, “I could not have done it without her help.”

Walton is excited about graduating and looking forward to a future in social welfare. “I feel like it’s rewarding and gives me an opportunity to give back,” he said.

Throughout four years at UAlbany, English has been Walton’s favorite subject. “I still love English,” he said, adding, “I was able to improve my writing at UAlbany – that’s important in everything you do.”

Reserved by nature, Walton has gained confidence during his four years of school at UAlbany. He’s not afraid to speak up in class and to ask questions.

When his family remarks on how quickly the four years passed, Walton laughs and says, “No, they did not go by quickly.” There was a learning curve associated with the transition from high school to college. Unlike high school, he was on his own to manage his time, finish assignments, and complete the hundreds of pages of reading required each week.

Walton said, “You also learn outside the classroom here, through community service, internships, and field service.” He had internships with EOP and the Office of Environmental Sustainability. He’s also worked as a student assistant for Residential Life for two years in the Indian Quad office. During junior year, he worked at the University Libraries.

“You learn from work, too,” he said. “You learn to show up on time, to be responsible, and to get your work done.”

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About the University at Albany
A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany-SUNY offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciencesbusiness, public health, health sciences, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.