On Education and Binationalism

Summer school has started!! While the internship was designed to give the fellows experience in a variety of fields, each of us were given a primary focus. In the 4th week of the internship, I am finally in the classroom! I was placed in the higher education (11th and 12th grade) classroom, which I requested because I love working with high school students.

Before I begin, however, I would be remiss in not properly explaining the mission of the Migrant Education Programs. The program receives federal and state funding in order to “assist local school districts in improving and coordinating the educational continuity for the children of the nation’s migratory workers who have had their schooling interrupted” (taken from the 2015 staff handbook). The Summer Program is four weeks in duration, and focuses on both intensive English language acquisition and enhanced learning in the traditional school subjects. Attendance to the Summer Program is not required.

With that in mind, my first question was: why on earth would high school students want to spend 4 days a week for 4 weeks in school during the summer? The answer: Migrant Education does a magnificent job creating a learning-friendly learning environment, in which students can have fun while also gaining valuable life experience and enhancing educational tools that can be used during the school year. Attendance would be sparse if the program was set up like a normal school day. Instead, the higher ed class will take field trips to Mt. St. Mary’s on an official college visit, to the Gettysburg Hospital to learn about the wide range of job opportunities in the health care field, to Empire Beauty and HACC in order to see alternative options to traditional 4 year colleges, and to Pole Steeple to enjoy a day of hiking, kayaking, and other outdoor activities.

We have all probably heard of the summer learning loss, and the Summer Program provides extra support for students who are already at a disadvantage. This is when the second part of this post comes into play. I talked briefly about the education, but what about the Migrant? Migrant students are part of families who have moved in order to obtain seasonal employment. In Adams County, about 95% of those families come from Mexico and are in Adams County to work in the agri-related businesses. The language barrier, cultural differences, and the struggles that come with moving create many obstacles for migrant students during the school year. It can be difficult to adapt and fit in.

This past Thursday, the high school classes had an hour session called Binational. A lady from Mexico introduced the session by talking about the difficulties of moving and showed a slideshow of spots in Mexico. Next, the students did a traditional Mexican dance. Finally, they sang a song. The song was special because almost every student knew the song and was singing along. It was a really cool moment because the sense of solidarity was palpable. These students share a unique experience of having a place in their heart for two places, the United States and Mexico. Coming together in summer school gives them a space to celebrate the unique identity without being forced to assimilate with “American” values. It is an opportunity to celebrate not a dual-identity, since dual implies two separate parts, but rather a unique and special identity. As the summer progresses, I look forward to seeing their development.

Nathan Cody ’16