When Adrianna Flores was a young girl, her father and mother worked in fields picking fruit. She and her brother did not know English very well, and when her brother decided to attend college, it was a tough time because he had no help or prior knowledge on how to navigate through the higher education system.

As she put it, there were no programs available to help children of migrant workers and the parents themselves.

Today, though her husband works as an apple picker, her children do not have to experience similar feelings of helplessness all thanks to the Migrant Education program through the Bakersfield City School District.

"It’s better for their future," said Flores, whose children are attending Migrant Education for the first time. "They learn about our culture, they meet new people, they do the program bilingual. It’s a really good program."

Migrant Education is a federally funded program that aims to help migratory children overcome educational disruption, cultural and language barriers, social isolation, various health-related problems and other factors that inhibit academic success.

A child is considered migratory if the parent or guardian is a migratory worker in the agricultural, dairy, lumber or fishing industries and whose family has moved during the past three years. Once students are identified, they can participate in the supplemental program.

At BCSD, the program is held every season at a different school site. For this summer's run, the theme of the program was It's a Wonderful World, and around 270 students gathered for three weeks at Longfellow Elementary School to focus on societal problems, project-based learning, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) and culture.

"Our goal is to help produce 21st century learners and give them opportunities to collaborate, communicate and build," said Danielle Milian, one of the program leads.

With their given theme, students in all grade levels researched a world problem, thought of ways to solve it and presented to their peers. Binational teachers from Jalisco, Mexico, also worked with students to give them that "extra feeling of culture."

"As a migrant student, you move around a lot and you lose out on that, so we really try to keep that strong with them," Milian said. "I love having teachers from all over the world because it ties back into our theme."

"I like being here because you get to learn more about your culture, and instead of being at home, you get to be with friends and make new friends," said Darinka Barrena, an eighth-grader at Sierra Middle School. She added she has participated in the program previously.

Friday was the final day of the program, and students in pre-K to eighth grade presented their own rendition of "What a Wonderful World" by incorporating all they have learned throughout July. A second-grade class incorporated sign language into their performance, while other grade levels included drawings, costumes and other art elements.

Regional Director Janie Flores said the Migrant Education program helps prepare students for the upcoming school year and state exams they will take by providing supplemental academic and support services. Students who have participated in the program before can attest to that.

"It helps us feel prepared for the grade we're going into," said Karen Rodriguez, eighth-grader at Chipman Junior High School. "The field trips are really helpful and fun at the same time."

In addition to the educational components, there are parent programs and social emotional and overall wellness outreach.

Adrianna Flores said she has participated in the Pathway to University program because her hope is to work in immigration and help other migrant parents.

"When you have kids, sometimes you don’t have the time to learn or go to school," she said. 

Milian also said her colleagues have delivered backpacks, supplies, food and even set up eye exams for families.

Those who work in the program believe this is an enormous benefit to the Bakersfield community and others across the country simply because children are the future.

"They're already brought here without the same advantages many people have, but in the end they are our future and we want them to know it doesn’t matter where they’re from, it doesn’t matter what their background is, they can be and do anything that they put their minds to and we want them to have support," Milian said. "Over the last five years, I have personally seen growth in their language skills and confidence."

Ema Sasic can be reached at 661-395-7392. Follow her on Twitter: @ema_sasic.

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