Migrant Worker Education Program Expands|Southern Education Desk
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|April 12, 2012|
An educational service that helps migrant farm workers in north-east Louisiana is expanding.
The High School Equivalency Program, funded by the US Department of Education, offers free classes to families who follow harvests. The number of students has increased since its inception in the fall, but maintaining cash for the program is not yet certain.
|Migrant Workers Attend GED Classes|
“I’ve been taking this course for 6 months, and now I’m finally getting ready for my GED. I’m really excited – very nervous, of course. I hope it goes well. I mean, I’m getting prepared and I have a lot of help from my friends over here and so I’m just ready.”
Guillot is originally from Honduras; she’s been in the United States for 8 years.
She’s one of 98 students in the program. That number represents a 28 student jump from the program’s initial enrolment last fall. Part of the increase has to do with the work of recruiters. Andres Enriquez is a facilitator; he says attracting new students involves the use of multiple tactics.
“It is a little complex because we don’t have Spanish media so we can’t reach the community like that. A lot of the time we have to go and do presentations either at churches, stores, parks I mean everywhere where we think there is a concentration of migrant workers.”
In the fall, the program opened schools in Ouachita and Union parishes. The recruiting efforts have resulted in the addition of new students and the opening of a new high school equivalency center in nearby Lincoln parish. But most of those who are getting ready to test have been in the program since the fall.
Many Students Achieve Academic Success
Curriculum coordinator, Delene Rawls, says that about a quarter of the students are now gearing up to take their high school equivalency exams. A few have already taken it. Rawls says that the scores generally have met academic benchmarks.
“They were decent. They weren’t just barely scraping by; they didn’t necessarily blow the top off of it either. But most of these were Spanish GED takers. And so because it was in a language that’s closer to their native language I think they had some greater strengths.”
The program is open to all migrant students, including those who cannot prove that they are in the country legally. Last fall, we met a twenty-four-year-old student from Mexico, who we refer to only as “Juanita,” because she’s here illegally. She recently graduated with her GED.
“Juanita” is now tutoring others.
“I’m helping them to let them know where they have to put some more effort, some more attention. This is the reason why I’m still here. (laughs)”
“Juanita” plans to take some English courses and then enroll in college. Her friend, Maribel Guillot, says getting her high school equivalency is the key to success in America.
“If you made it over here, I mean, you’ve got big dreams. I think that all of the people that come to this country are full of hopes. And we know that we have the opportunity. And my husband has been a big support. He always tells me ‘go to school and be educated.’”
Still, for all the success in testing and recruiting Curriculum Coordinator, Delene Rawls, says that certain measures must be met.
“We do have federal guidelines that dictate that we have 69% of our total served to accomplish the GED. And of that 69%, then eighty percent need to be placed in some sort of further education – either English language or upgraded employment or post-secondary education.”
Rawls says that the results from the program’s first year dictate whether federal money will continue to pay for it. She says that the school probably will not quite achieve the 69% figure, but believes it will be “reasonably close;” close enough, she says, to ensure the program will be maintained.
Air Date: Fri, 04/13/2012