PCC / News / March 19, 2007

Lopez is in the right CAMP

Photos and Story by

Luis Lopez

Luis Lopez, Student

Luis Lopez is an example of how the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) can make a difference for a student whose parents are migrant workers.

Lopez, 24, volunteers as a teacher’s assistant at David Hill Elementary in Hillsboro working with a largely Hispanic fourth grade class.

“The best part about my day is going to that class,” Lopez said. “It has given me a strong sense of community.”

Lopez, a Hillsboro resident, is working on his master’s degree in education at Portland State University. He graduated from PCC in 2004 and is part of the Portland Teachers Program that trains students from diverse backgrounds to become teachers. The volunteer work is a way to give back to the community and to hone his skills.

Lopez faced many of the same dilemmas that his current fourth-grade class students are facing. He bounced from school to school in Hillsboro as his father changed jobs. He never thought about going to college when he graduated from high school, but that all changed after meeting with advisor Paul Halloran. From that talk Lopez realized that college was for him.

“I don’t know what I would have done without the program,” he said. “I didn’t think I could have gone to college. When I got to CAMP it opened a lot of doors of what I could do, video production and writing, to name a few. But it also reinforced the idea of teaching. I decided through CAMP that I wanted to be a teacher.”

Now, the program just got stronger. The program received another award of a five-year, $1,459,059 grant from the U.S. Department of Education. This grant will allow the Rock Creek Campus to provide intensive support services to 45 seasonal farm workers and migrant education students each year.

These funds will help the program in recruitment, intensive student advising, financial assistance, provide a three-term sequence of courses to assist with study skills and career exploration, peer mentoring, tutoring, cultural activities, and visits to four-year colleges and universities. For its targeted student population, these services are life-changers. Just ask Luis.

While CAMP made it easy for Lopez to find his calling in life, it wasn’t always a clear path for him. Born in Mexico City, he lived there for six years before his dad came to Oregon to live with an aunt as he worked. After about three months, Lopez’s father decided to bring the entire family up for one year. That was 19 years ago and they never looked back. In Hillsboro, Lopez shifted from school to school and was the minority student.

“At one school the Hispanic population was non-existent,” he said. “I was the diversity in the school.”

Over time, things changed with western Washington County’s influx of Hispanic residents. By the time he hit high school, many of his classmates were just like him. He could relate to their situations better, which is why when he came to PCC and took a tour through the program, he felt right at home.

“It helps students with migrant backgrounds,” Lopez said. “As first-year college students, it prepares them for the college environment. It made a really big difference for me. The kids in these situations don’t see themselves as college students, and have to figure things out by themselves. But CAMP lets you see that you are a college student and shows you how to get through it.”

Now, thanks to the program, Lopez is set to become his dream – a grade school teacher.

“Through my volunteer work I’ve come face-to-face with what I’ve only been taught and told in a classroom,” Lopez said. “Is this really something I want to do and can do? And the answer to that question is ‘yes.’”

Application Update:

Due to a current lack of applicants, the 2007 Fall term application deadline has been extended. If you think that you, or someone you know may be eligible please contact us right away. More information is available on the CAMP website.

Eligibility:

In order to be eligible for the program, a student and his/her parents or legal guardian must have worked for at least 75 days within the past two years in agriculture as a migrant or seasonal farm worker. Applicants must:

  • Have employment verification as a migrant or seasonal farm worker.
  • Have a high school diploma or GED.
  • Be eligible for federal financial need according to federal income guidelines.
  • Be in, or entering their first year of college studies.
  • Be able to enroll in at least 12 credit hours at PCC.
  • Have been eligible to participate in Chapter I, Title I Migrant Education Program, the High School Equivalency program, or the Workforce Investment Act.

Apply to the program:

About The Author: James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »