Former migrant workers benefited from scholarships.
Two former migrant workers shared how their childhood experiences in the field inspired them to get educated – and become educators themselves – Oct. 12 at the Institute of Texan Cultures.
Alberto Rodriguez, history professor at Texas A&M University, Kingsville, and Cynthia Jasso Arredondo from the Texas School Safety Center at Texas State University both received scholarships from the College Assistance Migrant Program.
CAMP is a federally funded program that assists college students who have a background in seasonal farm jobs.
Rodriguez’s parents met while working sugar bean fields. His father had to begin working at the age of 10 after his father passed on. His mother’s family had worked the fields for generations. Rodriguez would join his parents in the fields at age 6.
After a childhood of working sugar bean fields with his family, Rodriguez decided to enroll at Texas State University. He would earn his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history from the University of Texas-Pan American. Rodriguez would eventually earn his doctorate in history from the University of Houston.
His experience as a migrant worker motivated him to get his education and enjoy a higher standard of living, especially indoor plumbing.
“I can deal with long hours and heat but couldn’t deal with that outhouse,” he quipped.
Jasso Arredondo also spent her childhood working fields with her family. “We picked sugar beans, cucumbers. You name it, we picked it.” Jasso Arredondo said.
Jasso Arredondo said though the work was often 12 hours a day, seven days a week during the summer months, she would not trade her experience working the fields.
With assistance from a CAMP scholarship, Jasso Arredondo earned her bachelor’s degree in social work. “I knew I wanted to work with people,” she said.
Jasso Arredondo is manager for educational and training services at Texas State University. She coordinates safety training for school districts throughout Texas.
There are currently 38 colleges and universities participating in the CAMP program, according to MigrantStudents.org. Eligible students can earn up to $4,000 for their freshman year and continuous financial support until graduation.
The first available scholarships were granted in 1974 and continue to grow, according to the Geneseo Migrant Center’s website.