Career fair aims to give migrant children a leg up

dyawger@mercedsunstar.comJuly 23, 2013 

— Not only are students in the Central Valley Opportunity Center's Migrant Summer School catching up on missed academic credits — they also are learning about career and educational options.

The CVOC program's 125 students in ninth through 11th grades took part in an all-day Careers Conference Wednesday at the East Campus Educational Center. It included morning speakers and an afternoon career fair.

Gracina Macias-Avelar, the event coordinator, said she could see herself among the students attending the career fair.

Now a student teacher at Buhach Colony High School in Atwater and an aspiring Spanish teacher, she followed her farmworker parents as they worked the crops throughout California.

"I was one of them," Macias-Avelar said. "I needed this help, and they also need it. Most of their parents don't have an education and that's what I'm here for."

Jose Duran, migrantsummer school principal and an English language development teacher during the year at Buhach Colony High School, said the goal of the summer school is for students to catch up on their credits.

Eight teachers mostly focus on English-language development and improving fluency.

Duran, also a former a migrant summer student, said it's a good feeling to help students who come from backgrounds similar to his because he knows what they are up against.

Joan Faul, Atwater's mayor and a retired educator, helped found the migrant summer school 30 years ago. She lauded Duran for adding new ideas and new activities, giving an added spark to the program.

"It's developed so much over 30 years," Faul said. "We want to keep migrant students up with regular students. We want the students to feel secure enough so they can work in regular classrooms."

The Merced Union High School District and Merced County Office of Education sponsored the career conference along with the CVOC. Students come from Le Grand, Golden Valley, Merced, Atwater, Buhach Colony and Livingston high schools, Duran said.

At the career fair, students learned about nursing, accounting, real estate, police and fire, cosmetology, psychology, public information, computer technology, park service, banking and city management.

Barbara Luna, 16, will be a senior this fall at Atwater High School. She said she learned English two years ago and her parents were farmworkers.

"This helps us achieve our goals," Luna said, "and be someone in life, somebody who could change the future."

She is thinking about attending college or joining the Navy after graduation.

Alondra Navarrate, 17, will be a senior at Buhach Colony High School this fall. She said the speakers were very confident and shared important life experiences.

"It's really good," Navarrate said. "It gives us a chance to know what we want to do. It gives different options and overall helps students stand out."

She wants to attend Modesto Junior College and then California State University, Stanislaus, in Turlock. She is torn between careers in business or nursing.

Luis De La Cruz of Planada, whose wife Irene publishes the bimonthly publication "Between Friends/Entre Amigos," spoke to students about careers in communications.

A former elementary school teacher in Santa Clara County who spent a dozen years in the publishing world, De La Cruz stressed communication is more important now than ever and writing brings out the good, bad and the ugly.

"There are a lot of benefits (from writing) aside from the money," De La Cruz said. "A lot of good happens in Merced and in the county. You bring a story to life and share it."

Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or dyawger@mercedsunstar.com.

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