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August 22, 2017

Migrant Education Program staff earn state awards

Three staff members of the Kennewick School District’s Migrant Education Program were honored with state awards for their work helping thousands of migrant students connect with and succeed in school.

Home Visitor Eva Sandoval was named Recruiter of the Year at the annual state Migrant Education Program (MEP) Conference in Yakima. Angelica Villegas, a migrant graduation specialist at Kennewick High School was awarded the PASS Contact Person of the Year honor. And Estrella Aguilar, another Kennewick High migrant graduation specialist, was named Migrant Graduation Specialist of the Year.

Their success helping students and families is based on the relationships they build and their knowledge of the struggles facing the migrant community, says Alyssa St. Hilaire, the district’s bilingual coordinator.

“They come from migrant backgrounds themselves. They understand the challenges and can also share their hope with students and families,” St. Hilaire says.

The district has the second largest migrant student population in the state. About 3,000 students seek support and services from the district’s migrant program each year.

Migrant children are in families that move regularly so their families can find seasonal or temporary work in the agricultural industry. Their family’s status means migrant students change schools and school districts often. That can lead to interrupted school years and students falling behind in their studies.

Sandoval focuses on outreach for the district’s migrant program, visiting apartments, work camps, farms, laundromats, and other locations to tell migrant families about the support the program can provide.

Villegas, a migrant graduation specialist at Kennewick High School, has helped migrant students complete credits through the Portable Assisted Study Sequence (PASS) summer program, keeping them on track for graduation.

Aguilar, Kennewick High’s other migrant graduation specialist, helps students thrive at school, making sure they enroll in the right classes, get sports physicals to participate in sports and other needs.

“These families need help to keep kids enrolled in school and thriving in their studies,” says St. Hilaire. “These staff members advocate for the kids, help parents with schedules and understanding the school system.”