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PCC’s $3 million in federal grants target farmworkers, first-generation students
Photos and Story by James Hill
Beto Espindola is excited for the future. Not just for himself, but also for the future of the seasonal migrant farmworkers he helps through Portland Community College’s High School Equivalency Program.
This summer, the program he manages at the Rock Creek Campus (17705 NW Springville Road) received notice it has been awarded a $2.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The funding will help the High School Equivalency Program to continue its work with migrant and seasonal farmworkers as well as members of their immediate family to obtain a general education diploma. The federally funded project provides free classes in Spanish or English, tutoring services, and information on higher education, employment, military and job training opportunities.
“We are excited to learn that we will continue to provide this necessary service to migrant and seasonal farm workers in PCC’s service area,” said Espindola, manager of the program. “HEP provides a second chance to many hard-working students that for one reason or another left school and are now striving to re-engage in their academic pursuits. In the long run, this will enable students to best provide for their families and support a culture of education, as a means to a better life.”
It is one of two five-year grants that the college received this summer, totaling more than $3.3 million in funds awarded by the U.S. Department of Education to PCC. In addition to HEP, PCC’s Cascade Campus TRiO Student Support Services (705 N. Killingsworth St.) garnered a $1.1 million grant.
The money is critical for HEP. Espindola said that 76 students will be served per year, getting critical academic guidance, intensive GED instruction, college skills building, career exploration and development, and cohort educational experiences. In addition, qualified students are given financial assistance, bus passes, meal vouchers and childcare assistance to smooth the transition of going back to a classroom setting.
To date, the program has assisted 500 students and graduated 128 during the last five years. Classes at the Rock Creek Campus and Hillsboro/Forest Grove area prepare them to take and pass the high school equivalency tests established by the state. The program is for students who did not complete high school and either work or have worked in the agricultural industry’s manual labor force, including nursery work, in the past two years.
“Given the local need for high school equivalency preparation classes in Spanish, responding to the needs of the migrant and seasonal farm worker community was critical,” Espindola added.
Low-income, first-generation students get a boost
PCC also earned a $1.1 million grant that will allow the Cascade Campus to continue its successful TRiO Student Support Services, formerly known as the Cascade ROOTS Program. It helps increase the retention, graduation and transfer rates of academically underprepared low-income and first-generation students, and students with disabilities.
The TRiO Program serves 140 students annually and provides intensive academic advising, financial aid advocacy, scholarship advising and assistance, student assessment, degree and transfer audits, college skills building, and more. Students have a 98 percent good-academic-standing rate in the program. Plus, graduates have earned nearly $85,000 in scholarship awards through the PCC Foundation, Oregon Student Assistance Commission and various universities due to academic excellence.
“The array of services that the program has offered has resulted in an exceptional level of student success,” said Linda Reisser, dean of Student Development at the Cascade Campus.
For further information about the High School Equivalency Program, contact program manager Beto Espindola at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (971) 722-7760. And for info on the TRiO Student Support Services, contact Linda Reisser, Dean of Student Development at the Cascade Campus, at email@example.com or (971) 722-5307.