News Pulse - State University of New York at New Paltz

Harvesting a fruitful education

Migrant education program strong despite enrollment decline

"Our Families are the most sincere, honest, hardworking people..."
- Brenda Elliot, tutor advocate

In 2000, the Mid-Hudson Migrant Education Outreach Program had an enrollment of more than 3,000 students.

Today, there are fewer than 800.

David Sokolove, program coordinator, said that in response to lower enrollment numbers, the program is able to provide more tutoring hours
to eligible students.

A 23 percent decline in the national farm net income, reported by the U.S.

Department of Agriculture, is one of many factors contributing
to lower numbers of migrant families relocating to farming communities such as those in the Mid-Hudson region.

The Kingston City School District, where tutor advocate Brenda Elliot works, had 20 migrant students enrolled this fall. Yet, most migrant families in rural and urban school districts typically comprise a small percentage.

Sokolove said there are active families in Dutchess, Ulster and Orange, but the rising cost of real estate has made profitable farming difficult
in Putnam, Rockland and Westchester counties, the remaining counties in the program’s coverage area.

Margaret Gutierrez, program director, said tutor advocates work with students in the classroom and at home with the families. She said it
allows advocates to see the realities students face.

Migrant students need special attention to compensate for environmental changes. Students often experience cultural and language barriers, which can lead to them not developing a sense of belonging and connection to their school and community.

The program was established as a way to reach migrant families and is one of 11 state subcontracted and federally funded programs in New York.

Elliot, who has been with the program for 27 years, said her role is to develop and maintain a rapport with the children and families eligible
for the program.

“Our families are the most sincere, honest, hardworking people that I have ever met, and this has been consistent throughout my years with the program,” said Elliot. “Each year I feel honored and privileged
to work with them.”

She also develops relationships with community organizations as part of the program’s practice of linking families with the necessary health and social services such as the Hudson Valley Migrant Health program in New Paltz.

Parents can attend workshops on immigration, positive discipline and promoting native literacy through the program and the Bilingual/ESL Technical Assistance Center in New Paltz.

Fifty percent of migrant students graduate from high school, according to the National Association of State Directors of Migrant Education. For that reason, the program provides access to state-level programming such as leadership conferences, career exploration services, credit accrual programs and post-secondary education counseling.

An eligible student is between the ages of 3 and 21, has not received a high school diploma and whose parent, guardian, spouse or self is a
migratory agricultural worker or fisher who has moved to the area within 36 months.

Tutors provide assistance for up to three years after a family moves into a district.

Last year, Elliot worked with an eighth grade student on two Social Studies projects that involved written papers and a tri-fold poster on the 1920s and World War II. The student finished the year with an award for “Most Improved Student in Social Studies.”

“This was a wonderful outcome, because he was recognized for his hard work and perseverance during the entire school year,” Elliot said.

November 6, 2006
Volume 4, Issue 21

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