Migrant Workers and Education

An Oct. 14 panel discussion at USF hopes to shed light on migrant workers’ struggle for education.

 

TAMPA, Fla. (Oct. 5, 2011) – The University of South Florida Institute for the Study of Latin America and the Caribbean (ISLAC), in partnership with the Center for Migrant Education (CME) at USF, present “A Look into the Life of Migrant Workers: The Struggle for Education,” Oct. 14, from 12 to 2 p.m. in the Grace Allen Room at the USF Tampa Library.

 

The event, which is free and open to the public, features an NBC documentary excerpt, a panel presentation and question and answer session with people who have direct experience with the issues.

 

In observance of Hispanic Heritage Month ISLAC and the CME seek to raise awareness about the educational struggles migrant workers face. Part of a short documentary produced by NBC News in 2010 called “Children of the Harvest” will be shown followed by a panel presentation moderated by CME Director Ann Cranston-Gingras. The panel of three people from farm worker backgrounds will share their migration experiences and the effects on their educational opportunities. 

 

The panelists include Georgina Rivera-Singletary, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Special Education at USF and supervisor of the Migrant Education Program for the Hillsborough County public schools; Cynthia Piedra, a sophomore at USF and a participant in the CME College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) who plans to major in nursing; and Sergio Andrade, a 2005 graduate of the CME High School Equivalency Program (HEP) who is currently finishing his associate’s degree at Hillsborough Community College.  He plans to enroll at USF next spring to pursue a degree in industrial engineering.

 

The film and panel discussion will be followed by a question and answer session. Light refreshments will also be provided.

 

Part of USF’s College of Education, CME is dedicated to improving access to education for students from migrant farm worker backgrounds. The center provides educational programs offering both high school completion and higher educational opportunities through the HEP and CAMP projects.

 

“Equipped with a heritage that emphasizes hard work and perseverance, along with support provided by the migrant education program, an increasing number of students from farm worker backgrounds are achieving academic success,” said Cranston-Gingras. “However, many still are not able to overcome the challenges imposed by the mismatch between the migrant lifestyle and traditional educational structures.”

 

Statistics explain part of the story.

 

The most recent National Agriculture Survey (NAWS) reveals there are an estimated 2.5 million crop farm workers in the United States. Of that number, 78 percent are foreign born, with 75 percent coming from Mexico. Other foreign born migrant workers come from Honduras, Guatemala, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Five out of every six migrant workers is a native Spanish speaker.

 

The nature of the migrant workers’ occupation (which requires frequent movement throughout the United States according to harvest seasons) results in significant and frequent educational disruptions for the children of farm workers. Administrative requirements such as the transfer of transcripts and credits also contribute to a lack of access to education for these children.

 

According to the U.S. Accountability Office in 1998, an estimated 90 percent of school-age migrant students in the United States dropped out of school long before graduating. More recently, a 2005 survey by the U.S. Department of Labor National Agriculture of 6,472 crop farm workers showed that on average, the highest grade completed by farm workers was seventh grade.

 

To learn more about what the CME does, please contact Ann Cranston-Gingras at (813) 974-1387 or visit: http://www.coedu.usf.edu/main/departments/sped/CME/CME.html.

 

Media Contact: Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563.