Out-of-School Youth, Dropout Students, Migrant Education Program (MEP) Staff
Damaris is an 18-year-old Out-of-School Youth (OSY) originally from Nacogdoches County, Texas. She, her two sisters, and her father lived in Texas for much of her life and traveled back and forth to Mexico. Damaris and her sisters dropped out of high school at a young age and began to travel around the United States doing farm work with their father. They traveled to South Dakota, North Carolina, and other states before eventually arriving in New York to work at a fruit packing facility. Damaris and her sisters were interested in returning to school to complete their education. However, when their father became ill and started losing his eyesight, they were forced to continue working at the fruit plant to support him and each other. All three girls were under 19 years old at the time.
Although the circumstances in her life prevented Damaris from returning to school, she was determined to continue her education in some way, with the goal of going into the Army and eventually becoming a law enforcement agent with the FBI. In the summer of 2016, Damaris and her sisters were recruited into the Migrant Education Program (MEP) in New York State, where they found academic and emotional support. Although Damaris did not feel that returning to high school was a good fit for her, the program helped her seek out alternative educational options. The OSY Coordinator for the regional program helped Damaris apply for the Job Corps program in Cassadaga, New York. When Damaris’s father and sisters returned to Mexico, she stayed behind on her own and lived at the residential Job Corps Center. With the support of the OSY Coordinator, Damaris graduated from the security track of the Job Corps program in just 7 months and received her Penn Foster diploma.
Damaris's journey to completing the Job Corps program was not easy. The application process alone was difficult and time-consuming, and Damaris completed it while working long hours at the fruit packing facility. She also studied for and passed her driver permit test during this time with the support of the MEP staff. When she began the Job Corps program, at just 18 years old, she was living on her own for the first time. Her sisters worked hard to support themselves and their father and to send Damaris a little money to support herself during her studies. Although attending the Job Corps program was challenging for Damaris, she knew that working hard during her months there would create a brighter future for herself and her family.
After graduating from the Job Corps program, Damaris joined her father and sisters who had moved to Michigan. She has a new job as a security guard and is communicating with Army recruiters. She plans to help support her family with her new career so that her two sisters can have the opportunity to further their educations as she did. Both are interested in receiving their High School Equivalency Diplomas and are also considering attending the Job Corps program as well. Damaris and her sisters are truly incredible young women, and the staff of the New York State MEP are very proud to have worked with them and to support them in creating new futures for themselves.
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Migrant Education Program Coordinator
New York State Education Department
Phone: (518) 473-0295