The children of migrant workers in Pennsylvania now have easier access to college, thanks to a $2.1 million grant from the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP). The 5-year grant will provide financial and academic assistance to students who participated in the K-12 federally and state funded Migrant Education Program. The college program is the only one of its kind in Pennsylvania.
“Migrant children, the sons and daughters of agricultural workers, are often disadvantaged when it comes to educational opportunities because they move around so much,” explained Dr. George Drake, Dean of the College of Education and Human Services. “The grant will help us to “raise” the children, which will raise the family.”
Drake, along with Dámaso Albino Jr., director of the Migrant Education Program at Millersville University, are the co-principal investigators (PI) on the grant. They explained that most children of migrant workers have not only a language barrier, but are often first generation college students and don’t have a role model to help them with the process.
The program is now underway with nine students this semester at MU. Each student in the program is paired with an upper-class MU student, who will be a mentor to the first year students.
“Through this program, we’ll be able to add a new dimension to the campus community at Millersville,” said Drake. “At the end of the day, current MU students will have their horizons broadened with new nationalities and cultures, and the students in the program will have the wonderful opportunity to attend college.”
The program will provide continual support and financial assistance of a stipend, tuition, and room and board, during their freshman year of college. While the support will continue during their entire college experience, the student will be directed to financial aid after their freshmen year to continue financing their education.
“We will be there to help with language barriers as well as unique needs as identified, such as those not available through Millersville University resources,” said Albino. “We’re used to dealing with new populations to the area and the migrant family lifestyle, so we have the people and programs in place to help.”
“It’s important to note that migrant workers are not the same thing as refugees,” said Drake. “Not all refugees are migrants and not all migrants are refugees. Our services are specifically for the children of agricultural workers in the state.”
Drake and Albino hope to grow the program and add 11 students in the spring and another 20 students by fall 2017. They originally applied for the funding a year ago, but didn’t get the grant. They put together a new proposal based on the feedback they received and reapplied. This year, they were successful.
“Each year 200-300 migrant children graduate from high school in this state,” said Albino. “In five years we hope to give 100 of them the opportunity to go to college.”
Albino is in the process of hiring additional staff to help with the program. The Migrant Education Program at Millersville now employs 40 staff members across four counties in Central Pennsylvania.
About the Migrant Education Program at Millersville University
The Pennsylvania Migrant Education Program at Millersville University provides instructional and support services to children in Lancaster, Berks, Lehigh and Northampton Counties. Lancaster and Berks Counties are Project Areas 4 and 5 respectively. Lehigh and Northampton Counties together comprise Project Area 2. Our purpose is to support the academic development of migrant students who have moved into the local public schools and to help them achieve the same high educational standards as those students who have not experienced an interruption in their education caused by their migrant lifestyle.