By Eliza Gonzalez
Migrant farmworkers come to the U.S. to escape the hardships of their home countries. They flee danger, war, hunger, and extreme poverty. However, difficulty often continues when they cross the border and start a new life.
“I know a person and it’s really sad,” said Librada Paz, a local activist who works with migrant farmworkers. “She’s from Guatemala, and she got two [gun] shots in her stomach. She said that she died for at least a couple minutes and then she came back in the hospital. People like that have real stories. They must ask themselves: ‘Do I want to stay [in their home countries]? I might die if I don’t go someplace else’,” Paz said.
Librada Paz, who migrated to the U.S. when she was just 15, is one of the many local people who are involved with organizations dedicated to helping migrant workers. The Brockport Migrant Education Program supports the children of migrant workers once they are in the U.S. This organization provides tutoring, summer school and field trips, emergency services, and referrals to other services.
“We do provide a lot of services for our students,” Magaly Rosario, the director of the Brockport Migrant Education Program said. “For us, the definition of a migrant family is moving from school district to school district,” Rosario said.
For nearly 50 years, the Brockport Migrant Education Program has worked closely with migrant children who rely on their various services and resources.
“There’s the basic services of providing supplemental educational services and connecting families to resources, meaning, providing tutoring,” Rosario said. “For many families, they often move and go from school district to school district and if a child is behind, there’s often tutoring, which is very costly,” Rosario said.
“When you’re trying to make sure you’re taking care of your next meal in the family, that’s [tutoring] not even an option. So, there’s services like tutoring. It’s really hard to focus on school when you’re hungry. We also offer summer school programs,” Rosario said.
Currently, eight Migrant Education offices operate in New York State. These offices are separated based on different counties, as well as the number of students who require services. The Brockport office offers aid to Monroe County, Orleans County, and Niagara County. According to Rosario, only two offices currently offer summer school in New York State.
“There’s actually only two of us that have summer schools, or summer school programs, because it’s gotten very expensive to run,” said Rosario. “Also, things like transportation and leasing a building, all of these things are very costly,” Rosario explained.
During this past summer, the school program was held in Orleans County, a more central location for many migrant children. This made it possible for students from nine different counties across the state to attend the program. There was a field day, a book donation event, and even educational arts and craft projects at the summer school program.
The Brockport Migrant Education office currently provides services for almost 400 students.
“We have partnerships, or we do community relationships so that we can ensure that we can provide services or connect families to programs that they may need assistance with,” Rosario said. “We help with school registration, interpretation support, family advocacy. We do a backpack and school supplies giveaway. We provide support for homeless migrant students as well,” Rosario said.
“We do a lot of college and career readiness workshops for high school students. Right now, we’re working on a college essay writing workshop,” Rosario explained. “Last year, this was a really popular event. We did a math and literacy carnival where the kids and parents could play together. There were different math games or literacy games and activities, and they [the students] went from station to station, and were able to get tickets to get prizes,” Rosario said.
Though the Brockport Migrant Education office takes up a small space in Cooper Hall on the SUNY Brockport campus, the work they do is highly impactful for migrant children.
For more information about New York State’s Migrant Education Programs and for news about upcoming events and ways to help, visit the website, https://www.nysmigrant.org/.