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CAMP Helps Migrant Students Break the Cycle and Pursue Education

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – AUGUST 14, 2014 – Jorge Hernandez personally identifies with the students he works with as a Learning Instructional Specialist for the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) at The University of Texas at Brownsville.

The U.S. Department of Education, through the Office of Migrant Education, funds CAMP programs that serve approximately 2,000 CAMP participants annually to support students’ completion of their first year of studies.

CAMP at UTB was first funded in 2002; in its present five-year cycle, CAMP averages an 86 percent first-year completion rate with 92 percent enrollment in the second year of postsecondary education. Thus far, 65 former CAMP students have graduated from UTB with a bachelor’s degree.

Because Hernandez grew up in a migrant family, he can relate to the freshmen who are breaking the cycle of a lifestyle that offers little chance for advancement.

Jorge Hernandez at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on July 21, 2014.

“My family has made its living by doing migrant farming work over several generations, going back as far as my great-grandmother,” said Hernandez, who received his Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Sociology from UTB in 2009 and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in counseling.

Throughout his youth, Hernandez’s family would travel to Genoa, Ohio, departing La Feria, Texas, in early June, returning the last week in August.

“We were always on the road somewhere, driving back to La Feria at the end of the summer, on my birthday, Aug. 29,” he said. “My sisters and I were lucky because our parents didn’t leave the Valley until the school year was complete, and they chose to leave Ohio before all the crops were harvested in order for us to get back to La Feria right before school started. The summer before my junior year at La Feria High School was our last summer migrating to Genoa.”

Hernandez was encouraged by his parents to focus on school work, and he knew he wanted a different lifestyle. He enrolled in UT Brownsville and became a member of the 2005-06 CAMP cohort. The CAMP mission is to assist students who are migratory or seasonal farmworkers (or children of such workers) enrolled in their first year of undergraduate studies at an institution of higher education.

“My experience as a CAMP student during my first year here at UTB was extremely positive,” Hernandez said. “Through support services such as mentoring, tutoring and an exposure to cultural activities, CAMP helped me to complete my first year and understand the value of my education.”

Hernandez is responsible for the academic component of the UTB CAMP program. He monitors students’ progress, meeting one-on-one to insure students have the resources needed for academic success. He maintains two progress reports for each student per semester; if he and a student find an area that needs improvement, they devise a plan to strengthen it.

Noel Rodriguez (back left), Jorge Hernandez (second from right) and others are joined by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (back right) outside the U.S. Department of Education building on Monday, July 22, 2014.​

Recently, Hernandez joined UTB CAMP Director Noel Rodriguez on a trip to Washington, D.C., to attend the annual CAMP directors’ meeting held at the U.S. Department of Education.

“This was a great opportunity for Jorge,” Rodriguez said. “Meeting with counterparts from across the country is always productive. It was good for him to see the business side of administering the program, how the grants are facilitated and to learn about the federal requirements.”

Hernandez said some of the highlights of their two and a half days in Washington included a conversation with Dr. Lisa Ramirez, The Director of the Office of Migrant Education; meeting Secretary of Education Arne Duncan; and a whirlwind tour of the District’s landmarks that included stops at the White House and the Viet Nam Memorial.

“Dr. Ramirez was inspiring,” Hernandez said. “She and her staff have such passion for education and are great advocates for CAMP; they are truly motivated to see programs like CAMP be successful.”

Hernandez said his job as a Learning Instructional Specialist helps him prepare for his career as a counselor.

“When talking to students, I listen and then follow up and ask questions,” he said. “These students face the problems of the general population that I will be working with, and in my position here, I am becoming aware of those issues. I chose to pursue community counseling to have a broad range of employment opportunities when I obtain my master’s degree; I see myself working in an area that promotes mental health and wellness.”

For more information about the CAMP program at UTB, contact Noel Rodriguez at 956-882-7872 or noel.rodriguez@utb.edu. ​

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