10th Annual Migrant Graduate Banquet A Huge Success For Students

By Amy Schechter

Dr. Ann M. Cranston-Gingras, professor of Special Education and Director of the Center for Migrant Education at the University of South Florida, told Education World, “The most significant and unique challenge faced by migrant students is mobility-induced educational discontinuity.”

Despite overwhelming odds, the Southshore Chamber of Commerce celebrated with the families of thirty-four Hillsborough County high school graduates at the 10th Annual Migrant Graduate Banquet on May 9. Students and their families came together due to the generous support of the community to celebrate an achievement that is no small feat.

Children of migrant workers not only move around as their parents follow crops requiring them to continually enroll in different schools, but they often face additional barriers including poverty, language barriers, and the need to work alongside their parents.

The path to a high school graduation is not easy, but in many ways children of migrant workers face a far rockier road.
Melanie Rimes, executive director of the Southshore Chamber and an advocate of migrant families coordinates the event. She says, “We need to honor both the students and the families for making education such a priority. For many, they were the first of their families to graduate from high school.”

This year, families heard the keynote address from Lennard High graduate Esbeydy Villegas, an advocate for racial justice in education, now majoring in criminal justice at the University of Michigan.

Additionally, the Southshore Chamber raised nearly $3000 to give a scholarship to a deserving student. The student will not be named, but Rimes described what an amazing young man he is: “After four years of ROTC in high school, he found out that he missed the cut off for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) by only four months. This completely eliminated his chance of being in our military…he has since then come up with a new goal. He wants to become a mining engineer!”

Rimes shared that he not only attended high school every day, but he also worked from 3PM until 10:30PM on the farm Monday-Friday with additional hours on weekends.

For more information, Ms. Rimes can be reached at 645-1366.