Education on the Edge Part 5: Wahluke's migrant education progra - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Education on the Edge Part 5: Wahluke's migrant education program

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MATTAWA, WA - For part 5 of Education on the Edge, reporter Rex Carlin shares one of Wahluke's bigger challenges: working with students whose families migrate on a regular basis.

"Back when I was in junior high, nobody ever told me what migrant meant," said Sonya Sandoval, Migrant Graduation Specialist. "I felt like I was different because I would move every year."

Each year, thousands of families migrate to Washington to contribute labor that's essential to Washington's economy. With the exception of California, more families migrate to the state of Washington than any other state, according to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

More than a quarter of the students at Wahluke fall in the migrant category, like Sonya Sandoval did when she was a student.

"I would come, go to school for three months, and then go back to Mexico," Sandoval said. "And I did that until 8th grade."

This disruption in education creates barriers for students and faculty. 

"They don't really get to make connections with students and teachers," Sandoval said.

The district has recognized that migrant students face unique challenges. In response, they created a new position in 2016: Migrant Graduation Specialist, a role Sandoval now fulfills. But her role goes beyond the professional title.

"I tell the students that I was a migrant student, that I went to school here, that I graduated from high school and went to college," she said.

Another aspect of the migrant program includes outreach in the parents' homes.

"We started doing home visits," said ELL Specialist Sarah Marchel, "as a way to go and learn what assets the families have."

Between three staff members, these home visits take place between three workers twice a month with the purpose of encouraging parent involvement.

"They think that because of the language barrier, they can't help their kids, or because they didn't get a lot of education in Mexico," Marchel said. "But they have so much to offer their children."

Sandoval says this outreach helps to create trust and extend support between the migrant families and the Wahluke faculty.

"It was really hard and I felt like I never had the extra support that I can provide to the students now," said Sandoval.

If you missed any previous parts of the Education on the Edge series, you can click on these links below:

Education on the Edge Part 1: Superintendent Discussion

Education on the Edge Part 2: Interactive Teaching

Education on the Edge Part 3: Wahluke's struggles to hire and keep teachers

Education on the Edge Part 4: Academy program helps English proficiency