By: Maria Vasquez, Program Director
ACT is committed to giving back to our communities, with the long-term aim of creating a lasting, social impact that aligns with ACT’s mission of helping people achieve education and workplace success. One way ACT gives back is through its corporate giving program, which provides charitable resources for initiatives that support ACT’s education and workforce mission. These include local education, human and social needs, cultural and artistic enrichment, community betterment, and disaster relief. ACT recently gave $3,000 to one such local education organization, the Cesar Chavez Memorial Alliance in Laredo, Texas, to fund scholarships for graduating seniors with migrant backgrounds.
Migrant children are those who never complete a regular school year because they leave their homes and schools to travel north to harvest crops. Some of these students begin the backbreaking work of harvesting crops as young as eight years old. There are regulations to protect children from working in the fields, but very seldom will farmers follow these regulations.
Migrant children do this not by choice, but as a matter of survival so that their families can eat during the year. I was one such child. My mother, a single mom of four with a middle school education, had little to no options in supporting our family. We would travel in April to Michigan from Brownsville, Texas to pick asparagus, cherries, and strawberries. In late summer, we would travel to Ohio to pick tomatoes, before returning home in October. I had an enormous education gap since I only went to school five months out of each school year.
The sheer grit and tenacity to achieve the herculean task of graduating from high school is admirable, since the schooling of migrant children is so fragmented. It is astonishing to me that some of these children become successful students, graduate high school, and are accepted into college.
I was lucky that I was able to graduate high school and graduate from college. I was a recipient of a scholarship similar to the ones awarded by the Cesar Chavez Memorial Alliance. The scholarship I received helped me survive financial gaps during college until my financial aid kicked in. I remember living on peanut butter and tuna sandwiches until I received my financial aid. I was grateful for the scholarships, and I know that the migrant graduates awarded scholarships from ACT’s Corporate Giving program will forever appreciate that someone cared enough to help them attain their dream of attending college.