Skip to main content
Return to MEP News & Stories

MEP News & Stories:
The Migrant Education Program Made Me Who I Am Today: The Success Story of Maria Villasana (KY)

the-migrant-education-program-made-me-who-i-am-today-the-success-story-of-maria-villasana

Maria attributes her self-motivation to the confidence and knowledge inspired in her from her Migrant Program experiences.

Focus:

Student Success

Target Audience:

All Migrant Staff and Migrant Students

Highlights:

Maria completed her practicum with the Migrant Education Programs in Clark and Montgomery Counties in Kentucky. Now she plans to volunteer as a tutor for migrant and English as a Second Language (ESL) students in her home county in Kentucky.

Synopsis:

Maria Villasana was a migrant student for many years, traveling between Georgia and Kentucky annually. As a child, Maria worked alongside her parents while also trying to attend school. A high school drop-out, non-English speaker, and mother of five, Maria overcame many obstacles to successfully graduate from college.

Maria first moved from Mier y Noriega, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, to Houston, Texas, when she was 11 years old. She did not attend school in Texas, even though she lived there for a few months, due to the family’s migratory lifestyle. From Houston Maria and her family moved to Tifton, Georgia, where she first started in the Migrant Education Program at the age of 12.

Maria first moved from Mier y Noriega, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, to Houston, Texas, when she was 11 years old. She did not attend school in Texas, even though she lived there for a few months, due to the family’s migratory lifestyle. From Houston Maria and her family moved to Tifton, Georgia, where she first started in the Migrant Education Program at the age of 12.

Maria believes that the Migrant Education Program in Tifton was outstanding. She has fond memories of program staff who she says were the only people who ever offered her true help. Her Migrant Education Program teacher provided after-school English lessons and assisted with homework. Through the program, Maria went on many educational field trips, such as to the pool for swimming lessons and to the zoo and movie theater—she vividly remembers seeing the movie Free Willy. The Tifton program opened up new worlds for Maria and gave her experiences she had never known.

Maria’s family became a true migrant family and started moving annually from Tifton to Winchester or Mt. Sterling, Kentucky, and back. Maria started working in the fields with her parents starting at age 12. After school, on weekends, and during all school holidays Maria and her siblings worked hard alongside the adults. In Kentucky, Maria and her siblings learned all there was to know about working with tobacco. They set, transplanted, weeded, topped, cut, housed, and stripped tobacco. In Georgia, she worked with jalapeños and tomatoes as well.

As Maria’s family moved around, each new school Maria enrolled in would start her on the basics. She learned the same things over and over. Maria believes that her Migrant Education Program teacher was the only person to help advance her academic knowledge.

When Maria was in 10th grade, she was forced to drop out of school to start her own family. She was not in school for several years and had not yet attained a conversational level of English. Five years ago, her father was diagnosed with cancer, so Maria was forced to learn how to navigate the healthcare and hospice system. Through these experiences and seeing the strength she had to overcome these obstacle, Maria was empowered to continue with her schooling.

Maria, now a mother of five, enrolled in an Adult Education program and received her High School Equivalency Diploma (HSED) in just 2 months. While she was taking HSED classes, her English improved significantly so that she even took her HSED test in English. Motivated to continue, Maria pursued a bachelor’s degree in Social Work at Morehead University. In 2017, she was awarded the Richard Reser Scholarship for Minority Scholars for her outstanding honors and achievements. She received a medal, certificate, and $500 scholarship.

Maria completed her practicum coursework with the Clark and Montgomery County Migrant Education Programs in Kentucky. Though this was an untraditional choice, she wanted to work with the people who help migrant students. Maria has been a great joy to work with and has motivated us even further to encourage our students to follow their dreams.

Maria graduated in December 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in Social Work and a 3.3 GPA. She is now an Educational Interpreter working with the English Language Learners program in the Clark County School System.

Maria attributes her self-motivation to the confidence and knowledge inspired in her from her Migrant Education Program experiences.

Student impacts:

Maria tutors migrant students who recently arrived to the United States. She motivates these students to be confident in their abilities and to keep learning. They have learned so much from Maria.

DISCLAIMER: This announcement contains information from a non-government organization that may be useful to you. Inclusion of this information does not constitute an endorsement by the U.S. Department of Education of any product or services offered or views expressed. The event may also give information that contains hyperlinks and URLs created and maintained by outside organizations and provided for the audience's convenience. The Department is not responsible for the accuracy of this information.

Lessons Learned

Even students who are faced with overwhelming obligations and unexpected situations can overcome the obstacles in their paths when they have supportive and motivating people in their lives.

Contact Information

Christina Benassi
Title I, Part C Migrant Education Program State Director, Planning Branch

Kentucky Department of Education
Frankfort, KY
Christina.benassi@education.ky.gov
Phone: (502) 564-3791, ext. 4025
https://education.ky.gov/federal/progs/tic/Pages/default.aspx

Madeline Potter
Recruiter/Advocate

Clark County Migrant Education Program
Winchester, KY
Madeline.potter@clark.kyschools.us
Phone: (859) 808-0122
http://teach.clarkschools.net/Depts/MigrantEducation