By Cynthia Hubert
For nearly four decades, Sacramento State’s College Assistance Migrant Program has helped students from farmworker backgrounds attend and graduate from college.
Those efforts will continue for five more years, the program’s administrators learned recently. The U.S. Department of Education has awarded CAMP $2.1 million, or about $425,000 annually, through 2024, said director Adriana Cervantes.
Since 1981, the federally funded program has provided academic, financial and other services to support migrant students as they navigate their first year at Sac State and beyond, helping them develop the skills necessary to overcome obstacles and earn their degrees.
Largely because of financial and cultural barriers, many migrant students miss out on college, said Viridiana Diaz, CAMP’s principal investigator. About 90 percent of the University’s CAMP students enter Sac State with greater needs and lower test scores than the campus average, Diaz said.
CAMP recruits young people whose families are migrant workers, traveling to rural schools across Northern California and beyond to pitch the program, identify interested students and contact their families. The program’s annual Migrant Student Days later brings students to Sac State, where they participate in a variety of presentations and activities designed to help ease them into college life.
Once they are enrolled, CAMP works hard to provide “a home away from home” and “a second family” for migrant students, Diaz said.
“Many of these students are not only the first in their families to go to college; they may be the first to graduate from high school or even junior high,” she said. “They often fulfill parental roles in their families,” making the transition to college particularly stressful and difficult.
Sac State CAMP focuses intensely on retaining migrant students through academic advising, personal counseling, mentorship and tutoring, Diaz said.
“We want to help them transition from a life of farm work to college life in a way that they can honor both experiences,” she said.
The approach has produced impressive results.
More than 3,000 students have taken part in CAMP, and about 96 percent of them completed their first year of college. Most continued their college educations, and 42 percent graduated. Performance rates for CAMP students are, in general, significantly higher than for students University-wide who were not enrolled in the program, statistics show.
Diaz said she is thrilled that the CAMP legacy will continue at Sac State.
“CAMP has served and graduated thousands of students, many of whom may never had attended college without this program,” Diaz said.
The program has succeeded in part because it “adapts to the students and the families it serves,” she said. CAMP’s approach “helps students navigate effectively in multiple worlds without giving up any part of their identity and culture."
“CAMP transforms lives and entire communities,” Diaz said, “and today our alumni are leaders in all fields across the state, country and world.”