Grant, Drury University Support Migrant Higher Education

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

Drury University in Monett, Missouri has a program it calls Somos ("we are" in Spanish) that helps migrant workers' children pay for their higher education. The program, according to Drury University's website, is supported by a grant from the US Department of Education called the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), which assists migratory students, seasonal farmworkers, and children of such workers in their first year of undergraduate studies at an institution of higher learning.

Currently, the university has eight students enrolled and has room for as many as a dozen more, writes Dustin Hodges for KY3-TV.

One daughter of a migrant worker, Gabriela Cecenas, never thought she would be attending college.

"Coming from the background that I do I feel like opportunities like this don't come every day so you really have to take advantage of all the opportunities that your community and your people give you," says Cecenas.

Drury University Regional Director Ann Saunders stated:

"What we'll do is provide resources for them so if they need help with tuition or books or we'll get a stipend for health care and other types of opportunities just to give them support."

In some cases, the migrant scholars will be paying their good fortune forward. Cecenas says she wants to work with the Hispanic community and will probably major in elementary education.

Saunders added that her goal was to support the growth of Hispanic leaders and hopes the next generation has the confidence and leadership skills to make a difference.

KOLR-TV reports that a kick-off event took place last Thursday night on Drury's Monett campus. Saunders explained that the program was in place thanks to a 5-year, $2 million grant from the Department of Education. The money, she continued, would be used for tuition, books, and healthcare, along with other needed items.

The students chosen will receive a laptop, and their families will be provided with support services. Even though the program is new, there have been numerous inquiries from potential students and their families. Currently, the grant funds up to 20 students. The first group of grantees began classes this month.

Elizabeth Gacksetter Nichols, a Spanish professor and the director of the new Drury program, said migrant families have little history of going to college. The expectation of migrant workers is that their young ones will be working as soon as possible.

The grant will pay the salaries for three full-time and three part-time faculty members who will identify, recruit, and support the program's students. The grant will also fund technology in classrooms and living expenses, such as reimbursement for child care. The goal is to take away any distractions that might be a barrier to the new students. Nichols said there were still openings in the fall and spring semesters.

This program is not the first time Drury has reached out to the migrant community over the years. There is a long history of offering supportive education to first generation college students and the Hispanic community, in general. To establish more leadership among Hispanic men and women, Drury is working with the Monett Chamber of Commerce to offer a leadership training course, according to Claudette Riley of the Springfield News-Leader.

The region wants to see more Spanish-speaking teachers and managers, and Somos is providing the training needed in the areas of technology, math and English instruction, and the motivation for migrant teens and adults to attend college.

On the Drury website, the school is described as a new kind of university. Drury honors and links liberal arts and sciences to the major subject areas offered by the College. Students learn what they can apply to real life and develop personal standards based on ethics and morality.

The faculty is accessible, connections are lifelong, and wellness and sustainability are a way of life. The school encourages students to be a part of community outreach, supports entrepreneurship and collaboration, and assists its student population in learning how to connect their dreams and aspirations to their successful futures.

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