Federal grants for migrant, farm worker students

Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, alongside TAMIU representatives, the One Star Foundation, the Lamar Bruni Vergara Charitable Trust, the League of United Latin American Citizens and Laredo First Assembly of God, collectively announced the awarding of $2.4 million in federal grants.

With the federal grants are also two matching donations of $184,000.  The funds are to help university students who come from migrant or seasonal farmworker parents. TAMIU Interim President Pablo Arenaz said the following, “We are deeply appreciative of Congressman Cuellar and our multiple partners who have joined forces for these initiatives, all of which share a vision of a better future for our students and community.  It is through such strong alliances that we are able to best deliver on our mission of higher education for all students in Laredo, and our region.”

The vast bulk of the funds from the US Department of Education-College Assistance Migrant Program with contributed $2,124,950. The funds are to be allocated over a period of five years.  $317,564 came from the Corporation for National Community Service.  These funds originate from the One Star Foundation.

“I understand the situation of these students who are migrant workers or seasonal farm workers because my own parents were migrant workers. Everyone deserves an equal chance to reap the benefits of higher education, even those students whose grades suffer because they are working in the fields.  These federal funds are an investment in our younger generation and our future, local workforce.  I thank TAMIU, AmeriCorps and all the local organizations who have come together to empower our community and open the doors of opportunities for those who are not familiar with collegiate life,” Cuellar said.

Longtime supporter of the university, The Lamar Bruni Vergara Trust, donated $180,897, and the Laredo First Assembly of God and LULAC collectively donated $3,250.  In total, the investment tallies up to $2.6 million dollars.

TAMIU aims to use the funds to provide extended student support services.  In doing so, their goal is to award students more scholarships towards educational expenses, increase hiring to provide motivated staff and mentors to support these students throughout their education experience, and have 72 AmeriCorps members to serve economically-disadvantaged students in elementary schools.  They will provide personal literacy tutoring services for these students.

Dr. Phillip S. Roberson, the AmeriCorps Coordinator, said about the funding, “We’re excited that this broad support will help us to powerfully extend our direct literacy tutoring services to local low-income elementary school students.  These efforts have measurable impacts on student learning outcomes and help pave the way for school success and brighter futures.  These additional AmeriCorps tutors add to similar services already in place in six Laredo elementary schools years serving hundreds of students annually.  The Lamar Bruni Vergara Charitable Trust has supported the existing Literacy Enrichment Centers (LECs) over the past two years with generous funding of more than $630,000.  Additionally, LULAC Chapter 7 has contributed $5,000 to support LECs in two LISD schools in the past year.  Adding to these funded literacy programs, this AmeriCorps award truly extends services to many more Laredo children.”

Cuellar has had a tenured relationship with the University, and faculty members have been appreciative of his efforts and representation.  Cuellar is known for using TAMIU to advocate progress for the future generation to complete after college.  Dr. Julio F. Magrigal, professor and executive director of special programs, was supportive of the Congressman: “We know that Congressman Cuellar can personally attest to the will and drive of students who benefit from our CAMP program.  We know that with this generous support, we will continue to dismantle real or perceived barriers to higher education for migrant or seasonal farm workers.”

Reforms in education funding have been a popular subject on both sides of Congress.  However, the funding here reveals the existence of expenses aside from tuition, and the students that go through exclusive hardships that should be considered in the presentation of new funds. Luckily for these students, the government did not fail them.


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