by Leslie Layton
Five teenagers from this area who have participated recently in Migrant Education summer leadership programs described a transformational experience in presentations Monday to the Butte County Office of Education board.
Oct. 16 Butte County Office of Education board meeting
"One of the most interesting things I learned was about how Martin Luther King fought for the freedom of African Americans. He wanted a new way of living and he believed we could do it."
The 14-year-old Gridley student visited sites in Washington, D.C., including, he said, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Marine Corps War Memorial and Lincoln Memorial.
"I was forced to get out of my comfort zone and make friends."
He couldn't get into the flamenco guitar elective, because it was full, but liked theater "even better."
"My parents work their butts off and I have to make them proud."
Noemi Chavez, a Gridley High School senior, said the Migrant Student Leadership Institute (MSLI) program at California State University, Sacramento (CSUS), “taught me how to be myself.”
“Three or four years ago, I never would have said I was born in Mexico,” Chavez told the board. “MSLI taught me not to hide where I came from. It gave us hope. Now I’m applying to college.”
Kim Guzzetti, the Migrant Education Region 2 director, said the PowerPoint presentation was the final requirement for the teens that were sent to one of three summer programs. Guzzetti acknowledged the Migrant Education Region 2 staffers who were present for the Oroville meeting, saying, “It takes a lot of energy to get the students to these programs.”
Marco Antonio Villa Cruz, 13, from Corning, and Angel Barrera, 14, from Gridley, were among 39 Region 2 students who were selected for a five-day trip to Washington, D.C., as part of a U.S. history academy. Villa Cruz talked about some of the sites the students visited, and said of the Washington Monument, “I never thought I was going to see it with my own eyes.”
Victor Jimenez, a junior at Gridley High, attended the Migrant Institute of STEM and Leadership at Cal State University, Fresno. Jimenez said he now knows he wants to attend Fresno or Sac State and study criminology. “I really loved the experience,” he said.
Janet Velazquez, 15, from Arbuckle, said she has learned from the programs that she wants to be a middle-school math teacher, and board member Amy Christianson said that with the California teacher shortage, “you’ll be able to go anywhere you want.”
Guzzetti said some of the kids have been able to attend several programs. “Going back again is often what makes the difference for them,” she said.
Guzzetti’s Region 2 serves some 9,000 young people living in California towns from Galt and Vallejo up to the Oregon border.
The federal program was developed to serve the children of migrant farmworkers.
Leslie Layton is editor of ChicoSol.