NMSU press release by Minerva Baumann
As New Mexico State University’s College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) celebrated 20 years of service to students from migrant farmworker families, the success of the program is recognized with a grant of nearly $2,000. $4 million from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Migrant Education to fund the program through 2027. The new funding round begins July 1. In addition to federal funds, the program also receives support from the New Mexico State Legislature.
“We served 564 students who walked through our door,” said Martha Estrada, director of NMSU CAMP. “Now that we’ve been reimbursed, that’s at least 30 more students every year.”
NMSU CAMP is for students who are the children of migrant and seasonal farm workers or students who have been farm workers to help them transition into the college environment. In their first year, these students receive a $1,500 scholarship, book allowances and meal allowances as well as mentorship and peer support.
“We celebrated our 20th anniversary and held several festivities focused on the successes of our student farmworkers who are now located across the country,” said Cynthia Bejarano, Regents Professor and Principal Investigator of the grant. “It was wonderful to hear the stories of our former CAMP students of how their lives have been transformed by the program.”
Dr. Carlos Cano, a physician at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, was among several CAMP alumni who served on a panel. He credits the study skills he learned at CAMP with helping him achieve his dream of earning a degree in biology and becoming a doctor. Not only does he treat patients and train incoming medical residents, but he is also an assistant professor at the medical school.
“There are many levels to getting into medical school, so being a person of color, it’s important to me to be an advocate for people who are historically underrepresented in this profession,” Cano said. “It’s very satisfying to teach residents and watch them grow throughout their careers. »
NMSU’s CAMP is one of 11 of 40 funded programs across the country that competed for these grants.
“To successfully renew such a competitive scholarship on multiple occasions is a significant achievement that provides essential support to our students from migrant farm worker families,” said Enrico Pontelli, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “This latest grant, bringing this program to 25 years, demonstrates the effectiveness of NMSU CAMP coordinated by Cynthia (Bejarano) and Martha (Estrada), working closely with their CAMP team and community supporters.”
For the 2020-21 freshman cohort, Bejarano said NMSU CAMP students had a 93% retention rate after their freshman year at NMSU, while 70% of NMSU CAMP bachelor’s graduates remained in New Mexico workforce.
“Each program has common goals as well as a distinct set of goals and objectives that are unique to that institution, unique to that programming, and unique to the agricultural worker population,” Bejarano said. “We’ve been successful in creating programs that work for our unique student population. Southern New Mexico and Eastern New Mexico are our primary recruiting areas. Since last year, we have recruited more in northern New Mexico, where we recruit Native farm workers. We look forward to better serving this community. We also have our more traditional farming communities in New Mexico like Hatch, the Deming area, and the Anthony area, basically.
For the first time this summer, Estrada explained that he organized a day of the Migrant Education Program (MEP) of NMSU CAMP. Some public schools have this program for student migrant farm workers, a sister program to CAMP. These students were invited to campus for an information fair.
“A lot of these students had never set foot on campus, even though they may have lived in the neighborhood or in Las Cruces or Anthony,” Estrada said.
Students, parents and staff of the MEP program were able to visit several university departments, hear from their faculty members and students who have been part of these programs, just to be exposed to different careers. At a poster fair, current students shared their research with visiting students. They also had lunch at the Taos restaurant.
“We had our students and other CAMP students serve as virtual mentors to these children, but this was the first time we could partner with our local migrant education programs from the Gadsden Independent School District and the Las Cruces public schools to physically bring to campus. After visiting academic departments, our athletics department presented to our students. They let them walk on the soccer field and throw a few soccer balls. Students were able to experience what it is like to be at university for at least half a day.
In the next five-year cycle, NMSU CAMP adds a health component to its STEM programming, becoming a STEM-H CAMP program.
“This new health component really came about because of COVID and because of the concerns and needs of our farmworker families,” Bejarano said. “We realized that many of our students are interested in the health field.”
NMSU CAMP partners with the school of nursing and other university health departments, and works closely with Amador Health in the community, which also sits on the CAMP advisory board.
“I think now, as we look to the next five years, we are able to really see how our alumni are faring in their careers and working lives and work with them to help us guide the next generation of students working in agriculture,” Bejarano said.
Ozvaldo Munoz, currently an executive at Marriott Corporation, is one of many CAMP alumni who have reflected on the success of the program.
“These students don’t come from wealthy families and some of them, like me, might not have the highest GPA in the world to get big scholarships,” Munoz said. “But CAMP is here to give you the opportunity to change your life path. That’s the amazing thing.