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MEP News & Stories:
The Dennis Luna Story (MT/TX)

the_dennis_luna_story

"...We need migrant summer programs for migrant students who want a better future for themselves and who wish to strive for excellence."

Dennis Luna

Focus:

Interstate and Inter-program Coordination between Receiving and Sending States

Target Audience:

High School Migrant Students

Highlights:

Dennis’s story highlights the importance of interstate and inter-program collaboration. The Montana MEP staff were able to facilitate Dennis’s continuity in educational services and to support his goal of attaining the distinguished graduation diploma in part because there was a longstanding relationship with school counselors and MEP staff in Texas, the sending state, as well as program staff at UT. The relationship between the MT MEP and Texas schools grew, in part, from participation in the Texas Migrant Interstate Program (TMIP) annual conference. Every February, TMIP hosts a face-to-face meeting for Texas migrant- and school-based staff and their counterparts in receiving states. This forum fosters network and rapport building. “When a migrant student comes up to Montana, we call the counselor in Texas to find out what credits are needed to help the student stay on track, or, like in Dennis’s case, to help him get ahead.” The fact that people at the schools have met and know the MEP staff in other states makes this communication easier.

The same rapport exists with the UT Migrant Student Graduation Enhancement Program and the MT MEP. The two programs have collaborated for 20 years to help migrant students earn credits toward graduation. When a student arrives needing a course, the MT MEP will call UT to help enroll the student in distance learning courses. Certified instructors teach the intensive courses, which can be three hours a night/five nights a week for six to eight weeks. The final exam is sent to UT for grading and credits are earned after passing. MT MEP and UT facilitate communication with the student’s Texas-based school to ensure that credits are recorded in a timely manner.

Synopsis:

The following story from the field emphasizes how a student who experienced both great mobility and disruption was able to achieve high school graduation and college readiness through close coordination of the migrant-funded programs in two states.

The Luna family migrated annually from Brownfield, TX to Fairview, MT, where they worked hoeing and thinning sugar beet fields. Dennis, the eighth child of ten in the Luna family, was the first in the family to graduate from high school in 2011. He graduated from Johnny G. Economedes High School having met the advanced Texas graduation requirements for the Distinguished Achievement High School Program. He was able to achieve this accomplishment through the interstate coordination of services between Montana’s Migrant Education Program in Sidney School District and The University of Texas (UT) Migrant Student Graduation Enhancement Program in Austin. Dennis attended an evening summer program in Montana to earn credit in physics—a course he needed to graduate under the Distinguished Program. He also completed courses in Business Computer Information Systems and Health Education.

Student impacts:

Graduating under the highest graduation plan is something Dennis is very proud of, especially given that he was the first in his family to do so. “I went through tough times, and I have had my share of difficult situations and problems,” says Dennis, who is now optimistic about his future in college. He received a $2,000 college scholarship and was selected as a 2011 Student of the Year by UT’s Migrant Student Graduation Enhancement Program. Dennis even contemplates attending law school after college to become a corporate lawyer. “I used to withdraw in April from our school and had to attend a new school where we migrated to, and it made me feel bad and out of place. I could see myself falling behind in my schoolwork,” Dennis reflects. “I thank The University of Texas at Austin Graduation Enhancement Program and my summer teacher in the Montana Migrant Education Program for this life-changing opportunity. That is why we need migrant summer programs for migrant students who want a better future for themselves and who wish to strive for excellence.”

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

your kids are my kids

The three migrant programs in this story have worked collectively over many years to streamline information and resource sharing in order to support migrant student needs as efficiently as possible.

go the distance

The activities focused on hands-on learning and field trips.

give the partnership time to develop

Not only do the MEP and school staff go the extra mile to help students earn the credits they need to graduate, the distance learning opportunities connect students to highly qualified staff in many areas of instruction. The online format provides students with interactive exercises, electronic simulations, unlimited practice, virtual manipulatives, and concrete models.

Sample Lesson activities

See a sample layout of the physics course completed by Dennis through the UT Migrant Student Graduation Enhancement Program.

Contact Information

Ms. Angela Branz-Spall
Director, Title I Migrant Program
Office of Public Instruction
1300 11th Avenue
P.O. Box 202501, State Capitol
Helena, MT 59620-2501
Phone: (406) 444-2423
abranzspall@mt.gov
Ms. Luz Hinojosa
Program Coordinator
Migrant Student Graduation Enhancement Program
K-16 Education Center, Continuing & Innovative Education
The University of Texas at Austin
Austin, TX 78713-7700
Phone: (512) 471-0581
Email: luzhinojosa@austin.utexas.edu