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School District's First Migrant Student is also Family's First High School Graduate (PA)


Pennsylvania out-of-school youth returns to school to earn the first high school diploma in his family.


Student Success, Consortium Incentive Grants (CIGs) Collaboration Programs

Target Audience:

Out-of-School Youth, Migrant Education Program (MEP) Staff


School's first migrant student goes from out-of-school youth to the first high school graduate in his family.


Eisenhower Middle/High School, which serves around 550 pupils, sits amid dairy farms on rolling, forested hills in rural Warren County, Pennsylvania. Many migrant, out-of-school youth work on the farms in this area.

In early 2012, 16-year-old Rocky arrived in the area to work with his parents skinning deer and cattle to prepare hides for export. Rocky’s family was concerned about him attending school because, in their native Guatemala, he had only attended through the 4th grade, and he did not know any English.

In spite of the family’s reservations, Pennsylvania Migrant Education Program (MEP) staff started preparing Rocky for school with weekly vocabulary lessons and English-Spanish study books. The staff gave him Strategies, Opportunities, and Services for Out-of-School Youth (SOSOSY; now Graduation and Outcomes for Success for Out-of-School Youth or GOSOSY) English-Spanish packets and CDs for him to practice at home between lessons as well as a laptop equipped with the language-learning program Rosetta Stone. After working with MEP staff for 3 months, Rocky’s family decided to enroll him in school.

Rocky was Eisenhower's first migrant student so MEP staff started by meeting with school staff and keeping in contact with the principal to help prepare for Rocky’s enrollment. Because the family was living in a hunting cabin, MEP staff worked with Homeless Coordinator Brad Whitman (now Migrant Education Program Supervisor) to ensure Rocky’s enrollment. Rocky, his parents, the principal, the guidance counselor, the English as a second language (ESL) teacher, the Spanish teacher, the Homeless Coordinator, and MEP staff all attended the initial enrollment meeting which determined Rocky’s placement in 9th grade, the classes he would take, and how much ESL he would receive. Rocky’s first day of school was Monday, May 14, 2012.

School staff kept in constant contact with MEP staff who created in-home lessons for Rocky based upon content the teachers were covering in class. MEP staff also assisted Rocky in obtaining his vaccinations through the Pennsylvania Department of Health so he could continue in school. As time went on, Rocky made many friends and started singing in the choir. Finally, in 2015, Rocky was ready to graduate, but it was discovered he was short on credits and would have to repeat 12th grade. Rocky was discouraged and considered dropping out so that he could work to help support his family. Fortunately, he found a part-time job after school and continued 12th grade for the 2015–2016 school year.

On June 9, 2016, Rocky received his diploma from Eisenhower. He is the first in his family to obtain a high school diploma and is Eisenhower’s first migrant student and graduate. Rocky had a 4th-grade educational background at age 16 but was able to graduate high school at 21 years old. He has made his family, Eisenhower Middle/High School, and staff from the Pennsylvania Migrant Education Program very proud.

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Lessons Learned

Schools and MEP staff working together can be key for student success.

Contact Information

Ms. Carmen Medina
Chief, Pennsylvania Department of Education

Bureau of Teaching and Learning, Division of Student Services
Pennsylvania Department of Education
Phone: (717) 783-6466

Deke Showman
Recruitment Coordinator, Migrant Education Program

Northwest Tri-County Intermediate Unit (IU5)
Edinboro, PA
Phone: (814) 734-5610 ext. 7052