Program helps migrant families with education

Magdelena Domingo, 27, uses learning materials provided by the Migrant Education Program to teach her daughter, Erika Juarez, 4, accompanied by her cousin, Alan Camacho, 1, Thursday, May 31in Newberry.

Erica Brough/ Staff Photographer
Published: Saturday, June 16, 2012 at 5:31 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, June 16, 2012 at 5:31 p.m.

While more options are available now than ever for public school students in North Central Florida, the parents of one group of students might be unaware of what choices they have for their children.

School officials say migrant workers might not speak or read English well enough to understand what is available.

“A lot of rural students suffer from the trickle-down effect,” said North Marion High School admissions receptionist Sarah Kelley, a 1996 graduate of the rural school in Citra.

“Either their parents don’t speak English — a barrier for children of migrant workers who travel from one rural location to another — or they come from a poverty-stricken area and there is a lack of education,” Kelley said.

To assist migrant families, the federal government established the Migrant Education Program.

“We provide social services, but most importantly, education, the option to learn English,” said Ruth Reyes, a family advocate with the federal program. “The migrant children still go to school, but they need a tutor to help them adjust to the language and all of the traveling around.”

For about a year, one of the families Reyes has been assisting has been living and working on a tobacco farm outside Newberry.

Reyes’ focus has been on 27-year-old Magdelena Domingo and her 4- and 6-year-old daughters. Domingo entered the United States from Mexico about eight years ago and needs help with her daughters’ education because she has a limited knowledge of English.

“After the children start attending school, they begin to teach the parents the English,” Reyes said.

Under the Migrant Education Program, Reyes delivers books on colors and shapes and numbers to the family in both English and Spanish.

“While teaching the children how to read, the parent is also learning the language,” Reyes said.

Domingo said her family left Mexico in search of a better life. If the family members had remained in Mexico, they would not have been able to send their daughters to school because they could not have afforded it.

“I would look for a way to teach them even if this program wasn’t available,” said Domingo, emphasizing how important education is to her and her family.

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