Federally funded program supports college retention for children of migrant farmworkers

Supporting a population that faces “every single barrier,” California State University-Fresno’s College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) has established a strong track record of retaining first-generation college students from families of migrant agricultural workers, Pacific Standard reports.

The federally funded CAMP program has been in place at Cal State-Fresno since 1972, with the school building its model around four tenets: regular meetings with counselors, participation in a three-credit course focused on career opportunities, supervised weekly study sessions with coaching on developing good work habits, and access to stipends.

The program also provides guidance on life skills such as how to cook, how to pick a roommate, how to interact with professors, and how to apply for part-time job. And students have access to a closet of professional clothes to borrow for interviews, free printing, and informal counseling.

A free sandwich can make all the difference

But perhaps most meaningful for a student population where food insecurity is a real concern is the daily sandwich and bag of groceries.

That alone can be a “life-saving moment,” CAMP alumnus Jerry Gomez-Delgado told Pacific Standard. Amid the pressure to succeed in school and feelings of guilt for leaving family and work, a source of steady support is vital to prevent student dropout. One in four first-generation students drop out before their second year, so CAMP focuses its efforts on first-year students.

Program aims to help students surmount many hurdles

In addition to the hurdles faced by most first-generation students—lower expectations from family and educators, problems filling high school core curriculum requirements, lower financial aid literacy, and low income—children of migrant farmworkers often face language barriers and come from families where the parents may have the equivalent of only an eighth grade education.

Cal State-Fresno has seen marked success with the CAMP program; 64 percent of Cal State-Fresno’s CAMP students graduate within six years, higher than the 56 percent rate among other first-generation students at the school, according to Pacific Standard. There are 53 CAMP programs nationwide, serving 2,400 students.

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