UT aids in migrant education

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Ajnes Aguilar applauds during a ceremony honoring students of UT’s Migrant Student Graduation Enhancement Program on Monday.

Photo Credit: Shannon Kintner | Daily Texan Staff

With UT’s help, some migrant students follow both the harvest and their academic dreams.

The University’s Migrant Student Graduation Enhancement Program, a service provided by the K-16 Education Center, marked its 25th year on Monday with a ceremony honoring 40 high school migrant students who completed distance learning courses through the program, said Linda L. Glessner, executive director of the department of Continuing and Innovative education.

“For 25 years, renewed by eight commissioners of education, from the Reagan administration to the Obama administration, this program has not changed,” Glessner said. “Leaders have come and gone, but the program remains solid.”

During its quarter century of operation, the program has enrolled more than 26,000 students, many of whom have gone on to attend college, Glessner said.

One of those students was Jessica Reyna of La Joya, Texas. Along with Eric Guajardo of Alamo, Texas, Reyna received one of two Student of the Year awards. She thanked the University in her acceptance speech.

“It’s good to know that people like you care for people like us,” Reyna, who plans to become a medical doctor, said. “I would like to say to the committee that chose me for this award, that I will not disappoint you. I hope you end up in my office someday.”

Jesus Diaz-Wever, a public school educator from Eagle Pass, Texas, said the program and the opportunity to spend a day on campus were both crucial to the academic success of the migrant students present.

“This is a big experience for [the students],” he said. “The idea is that they get the feeling of being at a university and a taste of what college life is. We tell them that high school is not the end.”

Diaz-Wever said migrant workers and their children are a big part of the community of Eagle Pass, which is near the U.S.-Mexico border. Of the approximately 2,000 students who attend Eagle Pass High School, about 80 migrate with their families each year, he said.

“They return in October or November and leave in April or the first week of May,” he said. “They head north to Minnesota, Washington, Wisconsin, some to Florida, others to Utah. They work in beets, onions and canning factories of all kinds.”

Glessner said the students’ parents should be proud of their children’s ability to succeed under strenuous circumstances.

“You’ve heard the saying, ‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,’” she said. “These students know what this is about.”