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College's migrant program awarded $1.5 million
Photos and Story by James Hill
PORTLAND, Ore. – The Grants Office at Portland Community College has announced the award of a five-year, $1,459,059 grant from the U.S. Department of Education for the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) at the Rock Creek Campus.
This grant will allow the campus (17705 N.W. Springville Road) to provide intensive support services to 45 seasonal farmworkers and migrant education students each year. Participants will receive the academic, student, and financial support services necessary to overcome barriers migrant students face to enrolling and completing higher education. The primary objectives are student retention and degree completion. The federal grant represents 92 percent of the financed money for this project while PCC leveraged funds will finance the remaining 8 percent.
These funds will help CAMP 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. Two migrant students at Columbia Gorge Community College will also receive assistance through this project.
Luis Lopez is an example of how CAMP can make a difference for a student with parents who 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. 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.
“The best part about my day is going to that class,” Lopez said. “It has given me a strong sense of community.”
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 didn’t know what I would have done without CAMP,” he said. “I didn’t think I would 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.”
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 as he grew up. 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 CAMP, 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 CAMP, 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.’”
For more information on this initiative, contact Teresa Alonso, CAMP Director, at 503-614-7443.
Portland Community College is the largest post-secondary institution in Oregon, serving approximately 88,200 full- and part-time students. For more PCC news, please visit us on the Web at www.pcc.edu/news. PCC has three comprehensive campuses, five workforce training and education centers, and 200 community locations in the Portland metropolitan area. The PCC district encompasses a 1,500-square-mile area in northwest Oregon and offers two-year degrees, one-year certificate programs, short-term training, alternative education, pre-college courses and life-long learning.