YVC Program supports higher education access for migrant and seasonal farmworker community

YAKIMA, WA — Over the next five years, Yakima Valley College will help the region’s migrant and seasonal farmworker community achieve their higher education aspirations with support from a $2.1 million federal grant.

The College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), funded by the U.S. Department of Education, provides a range of support to migrant or seasonal farmworkers and their children — boosting their ability to successfully complete the first year of college. Students receive a stipend, free tutoring, and access to technology, career development support, internship and service learning opportunities, academic success workshops and other support.

“CAMP is incredibly successful in opening a pathway to higher education for the migrant farmworker community,” said Ilda Guzmán, director of CAMP at YVC. “Typically, as the first in the family to attend college, students experience challenges in navigating the college-going process and learning. The challenge is much more difficult for students with migrant or migrant seasonal farmworking backgrounds.

“CAMP enhances the inherited experiences and skills migrant or migrant seasonal farmworking students bring with them to college and provides the support and resources to help them through their first year of study. With the support of YVC staff, the CAMP program guides students through their pathway towards earning and successfully completing their degrees.”

Cecilia Arroyo was born and raised in Yakima, the youngest of three children of a migrant farmworker family.

“My dad lived and worked his entire life in the orchard,” Arroyo said. “We grew up next to an apple orchard and my siblings and I were the first generation to attend college. College was a whole different world – I couldn’t ask my parents what college was like because they didn’t have the opportunity.”

One of Arroyo’s high school counselors encouraged her to apply for CAMP at Washington State University, a decision that helped create a bridge to success for Arroyo, who went on to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in interior design and now works for BORArchitecture in Yakima.

“CAMP created opportunities for me to meet people who could help me grow, it taught me leadership skills that I have continued to use in my personal and professional life,” Arroyo said.

In each of the next five years, YVC will support and dedicate services to 40 CAMP students in their first year of study. YVC is one of 52 institutions of higher education in the nation – and one of eight in Washington State – offering a CAMP program. Collectively, CAMP serves approximately 2,400 students annually.

A student is eligible if they meet one of the following criteria:

  • They or their immediate family members have engaged in migrant seasonal farm work for at least 75 days within the last 24 months,
  • They have participated or been eligible to participate in the Title 1C Migrant Education Program (MEP)
  • Has qualified for the Workforce Investment Act 167 Program (WIA 167), formerly the High School Equivalency Program (HEP).

Guzmán noted that YVC already has a significant history of supporting the educational aspirations of students overall. The support naturally will be extended to include the migrant and migrant seasonal farmworker community of south-central Washington.

“YVC’s faculty and staff are eager to learn more about what students in our region’s migrant and seasonal farmworker community need to succeed,” Guzmán said. “Having this grant enables us to enhance the faculty and staff’s knowledge as well as overtly serve migrant seasonal farmworking students who aspire to pursue their personal, educational and career goals.”

Arroyo, who will serve on the community advisory board for CAMP at Yakima Valley College, is excited for the program’s impact not only for migrant farmworkers who may not believe higher education is possible for themselves or their children, but also for the entire Yakima region.

“I think CAMP can motivate a lot of families who may think they don’t have the financial resources to access higher education,” Arroyo said. “It can also make an impact on the educational level in our community by creating more opportunities for future generations to achieve success and elevate the entire Yakima Valley community.”