Children of migrant workers who move to Delaware – whether from a different state or a different country – can spend the summer receiving educational and social emotional support through a state and federal program.
Delaware’s Migrant Education Program is specifically for migrants whose parents work in agriculture and who have moved in the previous three years.
“It can be as simple as moving from county to county, or it can be a student whose family came from Guatemala or another country,” said Ryan McNulty, a Milford middle school teacher and coach who runs the program’s Milford site.
Greater Milford Boys & Girls Club and the Western Sussex Boys & Girls Club are the two sites in Delaware that operate the Migrant Education Programs.
“The purpose of the program is to fill in some of the learning gaps that some of these kids might have considering that they are a migrant population,” Mcnulty said.
The federally-funded program provides a full day of support for five days a week for seven weeks in the summer.
More than 200,000 migrant students participate annually in the national program. In Delaware this summer, about 35 students enrolled at both the Milford and Sussex locations.
The majority of students are Latino, but the group is diverse and includes Haitian and other ethnic groups the instructors said.
Academic support for migrant students
“There are a lot of things I had no idea about when I came here, and this school has helped me grow and learn,” said Francisca Lobos, a sixth-grader who moved from Guatemala to Delaware in 2019.
For example, Lobos said she really focused on getting better at math, and this summer she learned how to reduce and convert fractions, a fundamental skill of algebra that she’ll use as she heads back into the classroom in the fall.
The U.S. Department of Education created the program in 1966 to meet the unique educational and social needs of migratory children between the ages of 3 to 22 years old. This year’s budget is $375,626,000.
Everything is free to the students, including breakfast, lunch, snacks and transportation.
The students start the program with an online diagnostic test to determine their reading and math levels. They take the same test at the end of the program to track progress.
This information is also sent to the student’s school after summer is over, so teachers can key in on weak areas and measure successes.
Angel Aguilar, a sixth-grader whose family recently left Florida for the First State, said he enrolled in the Migrant Education Program to improve his reading ability.
In addition, Aguilar said he’s enjoyed spending the summer making friends and playing soccer.
“Soccer is a smash hit here,” McNulty said.
Once enrolled, students are split into groups based on their age and ability. Each group has personalized lessons to help them in that area, similar to how a traditional classroom would be.
Delaware’s Boys & Girls Club has adopted the program’s I-Ready Curriculum and Assessment as the foundation of their instruction.
Typically, there are 10 staff for each student.
“It’s a balancing of summer fun with educational priorities,” McNulty said.
In addition to working on reading and math skills, the children go to waterparks, the movies, nature centers, museums and more.
The Greater Milford Boys & Girls Club has been providing migrant schooling services for more than 15 years, said Marlene Duffy, a coordinator for the program there.
She said elementary and middle school students are typically the ones who are enrolled.
This year, the Department of Education partnered with Salisbury State University and their College Assistance Migrant Program.
On Monday, the students will travel to Salisbury, Maryland for a five-day STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) camp at the college. Participants from states will gather there.
Duffy said that a big part of her job is recruiting teachers and making sure the summer program has enough instructors, especially for English Language Learning students.
According to the Department of Education, many migrant families stay in Delaware through late fall before returning to their home states. During this time, the children attend Delaware schools.
Migrant families who choose to live in Delaware permanently, even after the harvest season, can continue to receive education-related support services.
“The impact there for the kids is tremendous, and the situations that some of these kids would be in if they weren’t here is very limited,” McNulty said.
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Whether or not the students improve on their end-of-summer diagnostic test, he said, the children are not taking a step back or having a loss of learning while school’s out.
The Migrant Education Program also offers tutoring throughout the school year and will help provide food, clothes and health care services throughout the year.
“We do a lot of supplementary stuff just to make sure that they’re ready for school and their other basic needs are met,” McNulty said. “When I first started in the program, I had the opportunity to travel, and some of the places where these kids were living were completely eye opening.”
Jarek Rutz can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at (215) 450-9982. Follow him on Twitter @jarekrutz and on LinkedIn.
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
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