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Double Challenge

The children in migrant farm worker families struggle to graduate from high school on time and get into college. Moving from state to state with the harvests and working long hours in the fields makes this all the more challenging.
13 Mar 2017 – 10:45 AM EDT
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Los hermanos viven lejos de sus padres y se apoyan en el resto de la familia para sobrellevar los obstáculos. Crédito: Univision

Away from their parents and facing uncertainty

Rosa and Raquel are overcoming many obstacles to catch up on classes they’ve missed, while other students their age who are also migrant farm workers also show problems because of the challenges they must face.

One of them is 15-year-old Roy Córdoba. He was born in the United States and goes to 10 th grade. Roy grew up speaking Spanish because he was raised by his parents in Mexico.
His cousins find themselves in the same situation. Evelyn Rodríguez, also 15 years old and also in 10th grade, and his brother Cesar Rodríguez, who is 17 and goes to 11th grade. The three of them live with their aunt Nancy Vejar in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Their parents live in Ciudad Juarez, but their immigration status doesn’t allow them to be with their children. Although their aunt takes care of them the children must work in the fields to sustain themselves and to send money back to their families in Mexico. Many other children live in similar situations.

They have to overcome a double challenge because they are at a disadvantage: they learn under a different kind of curriculum in Mexico, plus, their English is not at the same level as their classmates.

On the next episode, I’ll tell you about the tools these kids use to get head and to be able to get into college.

Double challenge

Raquel and Rosa Anguiano are twins, in tenth grade, and are still two years from graduating and going to college, but they are already getting ready. They assure us that the challenge they face is twice as big compared to other classmates their age.

Their farm work has kept them seriously behind. They missed some subjects in ninth grade that they haven't been able to make up yet, because they travel from one state to another, to find farm work. Even putting everything they have into it, Rosa tells us she is afraid she will fail to reach her goal.

“It feels as if it were impossible to achieve my dreams,” she says.

Achieving these dreams is difficult, but not impossible, if they follow the right processes, according to the staff of the migrant students’ program of the city of Las Cruces, New Mexico. Bernardo López, a recruiter for that institution, says that a big part of the problem is that students are unaware of the resources that are available to them.

Every school district in the country, he explains, has courses to make up missed credits. Schedules are flexible, so students can attend in the afternoon and even at night. They can even take their regular classes at the same time that they make up for missed credits.

To get this help, he recommends students talk with their school counselor. They also have to be registered as migrant students, which allows them to qualify to receive the courses for free.

The Anguiano sisters are receiving this help. However, they are still suffering the consequences of their academic gap. Sometimes farm work happens during the school year. They tell us that often they are so tired that they can’t stay awake to do their homework, but they can’t afford to not do this. Meanwhile, they receive the tutoring that the program for migrant youth provides for them at home.

In the next episode, I'll tell you how the twins are doing at school. I will also explore the academic and personal challenges other migrant families are facing.

The academic and emotional disadvantages of migrating

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Migrant students suffer after being separated from their parents, but schools offer resources to help them

The academic disadvantages of moving from one place to another because of farmwork is not the only problem affecting brother and sister César and Evelyn Rodríguez. It worries them to be separated from their parents, who live in Mexico, and their cousin, Roy Córdoba, is in the same situation.

These three young people live with their aunt, Nancy Véjar, in the town of Las Cruces, New Mexico. This adjustment has caused emotional disturbance for these kids, to such a degree that it is reflected in their academic achievement and in their lives.

However, their Aunt Nancy assures us that there are plenty of resources and ways to help them.

For example, she turned to professional advisory assistance to learn to deal with her niece and nephews’ situation. She says that her home is not luxurious. They don’t have a home Internet connection, but that is not an obstacle for her niece and nephews to get ahead. They do their homework at the library, where they have access to computers and Internet. Another approach that works well for their Aunt is to be in constant communication with their teachers. That way, she knows what is going on with them, and how she can help them. Bit by bit, they have made progress, and they know more English now, she tells us.

Nancy tries to make sure they can see their parents, so this process will be easier. Every weekend that they can, she takes them to cross the border, where their relatives are waiting for them in Juárez, Mexico. This is all to create a healthful environment for them, so they can achieve their goal of going to the university and becoming professionals.