Olga puts on a fleece pullover and wraps her head in a bandana while her husband dons similar garb. It’s four in the morning and still dark outside. They’re off to work in the grape harvest in Napa Valley, California. Olga is a recruiter for the Migrant Education Program (MEP); by working side by side with the farmworkers she hopes to recruit, Olga can talk about the services MEP provides, and hopefully, enroll them in the program.

Olga’s dedication is an example of what over 100 regional staff do to support farmworkers and their families. I met Olga in 2017 when I began coordinating the MEP; since then, I have become the regional director of the largest migrant education region in California. Migrant education programs support academic intervention for migrant students, as well as referrals and assistance with food, medical, dental and vision services to migrant family members. It is an all-encompassing program that is essential for vulnerable migrant families and students, yet it is rarely known or understood by educational and community institutions in the state.

After 30 years working with this program, what I have learned from the students, parents and staff is this – to be a migrant is to belong nowhere and have no lasting ties with anyone outside your family. For students, this can be isolating and make the process of attaining education a lonely journey. While the program endures challenges that often prevent me and my team from offering the best resources for migrant students and families, the potential for impact is more than worth the struggle.

The MEP is a federally funded program that was established under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. Though it is not well known as a Title I program, the purpose of the MEP is to provide children of migrant farmworkers with appropriate educational resources to meet state academic outcomes and acquire a high school diploma.

Read the full article about the Migrant Education Program by Sarah Williams at EdSurge.