With wide grins on their faces, 11 children formed a single file line. They are excited and jittery
The children, ages 5 to 10, were preparing to head on stage and perform as part of their summer migrant education classes. June 25 marked the end of their three-week migrant education session at Alachua Elementary School – the same day of their play.
Their teacher, Judy Beverly, is an English teacher and reading coach at F.W. Buchholz High School in Gainesville and has done the program for six years. She gave them some encouragement.
“You’re stars,” she said. “Smile.”
After they filed on stage in the school’s cafeteria, some of the older students passed a microphone around and read lines from a script for The Three Little Pigs while the others acted out the scenes using desks as houses labeled “straw,” “sticks” and “bricks.”
Beverly said the performance reflects what the students learned over the course of the camp.
And her classes are only part of a bigger picture.
The program is part of the U.S. Department of Education’s Title 1 Part C – Education of Migratory Children. According to the department website, the program is put into place to reduce disruptions migrant children face in their education due to frequent moves.
This summer, counties all around North Central Florida are keeping migrant children learning.
Victoria Gomez, a teacher specialist for the Alachua Multi-County Migrant Education Program, said the program is for children whose families work in agriculture and fishery and are required to relocate often.
She said students often fall behind academically, so keeping up with summer classes helps. The camps mainly focus on reading and math, but also emphasize the arts and music. It includes all aspects of the school experience as well, including parent-teacher conferences, tutoring and counseling.
Margarita Alonso, whose two children were enrolled in Beverly’s program, said she saw improvements in their reading skills. Gomez acted as an interpreter for Alonso during her interview with WUFT News.
Alonso said her daughter, 6-year-old Yasmin Burgos-Alonso, would read stories to her stuffed dog the way Beverly read to the students.
“It was an incredible help,” she said.
Her son, 10-year-old Hector, would practice dances the children learned for their performance.
Alonso’s daughter said her favorite part of the migrant education program was getting to meet children from other schools who spoke Spanish.
Natalie Norris, coordinator with the Alachua Multi-County Migrant Education Program, said the goal of migrant education is to ensure children graduate and are prepared for higher education or a career.
Norris oversees 12 counties in the state as part of the program, including Alachua, Gilchrist, Levy, Clay and Hamilton.
Hamilton has some of the largest programs with two session that serve a total of 85 students.
There are two programs in Alachua County serving 35 students. Gilchrist has one program with nine students, and two in Levy with 25.
Norris said children travel to Alachua from other counties to participate in the sessions.
Cristina Davidson, program specialist for migrant education for Marion County Schools, said Marion has two K-8 programs and one high school program. About 33 students take part in both programs combined.
The programs in Marion follow a computer-based plan, and the high school students learn about video production.
Davidson said summer sessions are crucial in order to prevent learning loss that can occur when students take long breaks from class and keep them familiar with English.
She said some students come from impoverished families, so vacations are not likely. Instead of spending time doing leisurely activities, the children work to help support their families.
The National Agricultural Workers Survey found that the average income range for migrant families was $15,000 to $17,499.
According to the survey, 81 percent of migrant workers spoke Spanish as their native language.
Tony Malo, a technology teacher at Gainesville High School, said this is his second year teaching migrant children for the summer. His program consisted of two June sessions that each last a week.
In Malo’s class, the students learn graphic design and how to use Photoshop.
He said the students range from ages 14 to 18, and in addition to classes they take regular field trips to places around Gainesville, such as the Florida Museum of Natural History.
Although the program is helpful, he said, he thinks it should be longer than two weeks. Funding determines the length of the sessions. The federal government distributes funds based on the number of migrant students per state, students who take part in summer sessions and the cost of education in the state.
Malo said having summer migrant education classes is important because it keeps consistency with the children’s educational progress.
He believes that the social aspect, migrant children getting to interact with others in their same situation, is as important as the academic lessons.