In 2012 the Migrant Student Graduation Enhancement Program celebrates its 25th anniversary. Since 1987, the Migrant Student Program has helped about 18,000 migrant students earn high school credits by providing distance learning services and courses. The program helps these students achieve and maintain scholastic levels equivalent to those of their classmates who remain in school throughout the year. Students are able to stay on track with their studies and graduate on time. Many of the students represent the first high school graduates in their families, and many go on to become college graduates.
In this video interview, Alexis Fernandez, who was named Migrant Student of the Year in 2006, shares his story.
By the time he was 11 years old, Fernandez was working with his parents in the crop fields of California, Illinois and Texas as a migrant farm worker. “My memories of carrying heavy loads of tomatoes and grapes to awaiting trucks, feeling like there was no more sweat left in me, have left a lasting effect on my way of looking at the world and the value of education,” he says.
Despite the hardship of a migrant worker’s life, Fernandez excelled academically thanks in part to the Migrant Student Program. As a graduating senior at James “Nikki” Rowe High School in McAllen, Texas, he was ranked 15th among 451 graduating seniors, placing him in the top three percent of his class. Fernandez graduated under the Distinguished Achievement Plan with a grade average of 93. During high school, he took honors courses as well as Advanced Placement courses and earned 33 college credits.
Fernandez went on to graduate from college with a degree in mechanical engineering from The University of Texas at Austin in May 2011. During his years at the university, he served as president of the Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity and vice president for the United Greek Council.
During his college years, Fernandez remained involved with the Migrant Student Program, volunteering numerous times to speak to migrant high school students and conduct campus tours. He became an employee of the program during his junior year. “The migrant program has impacted me in so many ways. It is made up of people who want to see me succeed,” he says. “But I’ve also been able to give back to the program and help make sure that other students succeed. The migrant program really reaches out to these students and makes a difference in their lives.”
Fernandez recently left his job at the Migrant Student Program to start work full time as an engineer for Samsung Austin Semiconductor. He says, “I’m really excited to work for Samsung Semiconductors, manufacturing processing chips. To start my engineering career with such an established company is great.”
What to read next:
- More profiles of former exemplary migrant students who are now living their dreams
This video originally appeared on the Continuing and Innovative Education website.