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Continuing and Innovative Education, The University of Texas at Austin

2011 Exemplary Migrant Students Recognized at The University of Texas at Austin on April 11

High school migrant students from across the state were recognized April 11, 2011 at The University of Texas at Austin during the 24th annual Migrant Student Recognition Ceremony.

The ceremony honored Texas students who have completed distance learning courses through the Migrant Student Graduation Enhancement Program in Continuing and Innovative Education. The program provides flexible courses and support services that enable migrant students to earn high school credit at any time and any place in order to meet and often exceed high school graduation requirements.

Texas has the second-largest migrant education program and the largest interstate migrant student population in the nation. Students and their families migrate annually from Texas to 47 other states to work in agricultural and other seasonal jobs. With the help of this program, migrant students are able to stay in school and graduate high school on time.

“One of the highlights of my year is learning about the success of our exemplary migrant students and meeting these inspiring students in person at our annual ceremony,” said Dr. Judy C. Ashcroft, Dean of Continuing and Innovative Education (CIE). “These exemplary students have already made an impact on their schools and communities as high achievers, student leaders and community volunteers. Each of them aspires to continue their education at institutions of higher education. I look forward to learning of their future successes in their chosen fields of study.”

“The K-16 Education Center is proud to recognize these dedicated students for their outstanding contributions to their schools and communities,” said Gisela Greco-Llamas, director of the K-16 Education Center, a component of CIE and home to the Migrant Student program. “Another important purpose of our annual ceremony is to bring promising students to a university campus where we can provide them with the opportunity to envision themselves as college students and encourage them to continue their educational pursuits beyond high school. It is inspiring to work with students who are so motivated to do what it takes to achieve their dreams.”

During the ceremony, 40 exemplary migrant students from throughout Texas were recognized and presented with a medal by Rosie Garza from the division of migrant education at the Texas Education Agency. Texas Representative Aaron Peña also attended and presented college scholarships to five students, including the two “Students of the Year.” All five scholarships were a gift from the ExxonMobil Foundation, which has provided annual scholarships to the program since 2002.

Dennis Luna and Rene Mendoza, both from Edinburg, Texas, were selected as “Students of the Year” based on the obstacles they’ve had to overcome, overall academic achievements, participation and leadership in extracurricular activities, and academic performance in the Migrant Student Program.

Other scholarship recipients were Dulce Loera, Esmeralda Perez, and Hugo Sanchez, the winner of the program’s Creative Award competition. Students who competed for the Creative Award submitted entries in a range of creative endeavors including engineering drafting, photography, singing, folklorico dancing and song writing. Several of the entries were on display at the ceremony.

About 150 migrant students, 40 parents and 60 educators attended the ceremony with 19 school districts represented. These school districts included Brownsville, Conroe, Corpus Christi, Donna, Eagle Pass, Edinburg, El Paso, Fabens, Goose Creek, La Feria, La Joya, Mathis, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo, Point Isabel, Sharyland, Star, Taylor, United and Ysleta. About 75 guests from the university, the Texas Education Agency and the Texas Legislature also attended the event.

Musical performances at the ceremony were provided by Mariachi de Oro from Crockett High School in the Austin Independent School District and a vocal performance by Exemplary Migrant Student Esmeralda Perez who sang “de Colores”.

With funding from the Texas Education Agency and gifts from the ExxonMobil Foundation and the John G. and Marie Stella Kenedy Memorial Foundation, the Migrant Student Graduation Enhancement Program has enrolled more than 25,000 students over the past 24 years in its mission to increase the graduation rate of high school migrant students in Texas. Since its inception, thousands of migrant students have earned high school credits through the program’s distance learning courses to help them reach their goal of high school graduation. Many of these students are the first in their families to reach this educational level, and a number of the program’s high school graduates are now attending college in Texas and across the nation.