UTRGV program helps migrant farmworkers in South Texas finish high school


EDINBURG, Texas (Border Report) — The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley is helping migrant farmworkers and their children receive high school diplomas through a $475,000 U.S. Department of Education grant, which was announced on Wednesday.

The office of U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas), whose congressional district includes UTRGV’s Edinburg campus, announced the newly acquired funds for the High School Equivalency Program (HEP). According to a news release, 100 migrant farmworkers and their children, ages 16 and older, will receive counseling and academic placement services this school year to help them complete their high school degrees.

Migrant farmworkers rarely stay in any one place for any length of time, making it difficult to achieve a high school or college degree. Farmworkers typically travel north from Texas to places like Michigan to pick various crops depending upon the season, and many workers take their children out of school to work on the fields.

This program will help to pair migrant farm workers with available education resources and help to keep them on track in their quest to obtain a high school diploma, university officials tell Border Report.

“A high school education is the foundation of a skilled workforce and a necessary building block to compete in our modern digital economy,” Gonzalez said. “It is my hope that these funds will help give migrant farm students a better opportunity to succeed.”

U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-Texas, helped secure $475 million for the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley to help migrant farm workers and their families complete their high school degrees. (Courtesy photo)

The university’s Edinburg campus will house the project administrators, who will recruit students who are not already enrolled in schools in Hidalgo, Starr, Cameron or Willacy counties.

Students will receive weekly instruction on subjects that include life skills, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

“We provide information on financial aid and college registration process, provide STEM and CTE career path presentations, and take them on campus tours to regional institutes of higher education,” Dr. Beatriz Becerra-Barckholtz, UTRGV’s executive director for college access, told Border Report.

Becerra-Barckholtz said there is no maximum age, and some applicants are in their 60s. UTRGV also will help those in the program pursue college degrees if they want.

“HEP is committed to the pursuit of student empowerment through education with a common vision of respect and growth that promotes lifelong learning, community involvement, and cultural diversity,” she said.

South Texas is home to thousands of migrant farmworkers, many of whose education levels are minimal. Community leaders have long said that improving the education of farmworkers will go a long way to improving the economic success of the region.

“HEP is committed to the pursuit of student empowerment through education with a common vision of respect and growth that promotes lifelong learning, community involvement, and cultural diversity,” Becerra-Barckholtz said.

For more information on this program, email hep@utrgv.edu.

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at SSanchez@BorderReport.com.

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