University program aids students from migrant backgrounds to encourage timely graduation

Jada Krening, News Contributor

Each year, a cohort of 35 first-years join OSU, after overcoming a childhood spent in many places in search of work, as part of the College Assistance Migrant Program. 

CAMP is a grant-based federally funded program that aims to assist students who come from a migrant background of farm working. The term migrant refers to those who move from location to location to find work, often seasonal work. The program provides funding for first year students, in addition to counseling, tutoring, workshops, financial assistance and housing assistance. The program serves approximately 2,000 students every year. 

At Oregon State University, these students come from a primarily Latino background, and are from various corners of Oregon — the Willamette Valley, central Oregon, the Columbia River Gorge and eastern Oregon, to name a few. Most are first generation students whose parents have little to no educational background, according to the director of CAMP, Amas Aduviri. 

“We used to do, every year, a demographic survey, and it never failed,” Aduviri said. “About 98 percent plus of CAMP students’ parents never went to college, and very few graduated from high school. Because of that, participants’ parents information about higher education is very limited — when to apply for college, what scholarships are available, the first year in college, etc.”

As a result of limited information in many migrant communities, CAMP sends a recruiter to contact students who are eligible for the program. Recruiters travel across the state, visiting schools and attending various events in migrant and Latino communities in order to inform students and their families about CAMP and attending college.

One of the students recruited by CAMP is Anita Acevedo, a first-year student studying general engineering. Growing up in a migrant background, her mother and her moved around until they settled in Philomath, Ore. when she was five years old. There, her mother continues to work in agriculture, helping with a holiday tree business and working for a nearby farm. Acevedo was deciding between OSU or Linn-Benton Community College, and ultimately chose OSU because of CAMP. She describes the benefit CAMP has had on her transition to college, especially being the only student in the program from Philomath.

“It helps us as a group — there’s like 35 of us students — get together and just feel like we belong in a certain group,” Acevedo said. “Because in general, I was kind of an outcast for a little bit, because I was the only one that came from Philomath. But I’m really close with a lot of them now, and it’s pretty cliche, but it pretty much is like a family.”

Acevedo also described the resources and mentorship available to the CAMP students on campus, including meeting with a student mentor once a week, attending a CAMP class and designated study tables, in addition to various workshops, ranging from topics like leadership characteristics to sexual health education. 

CAMP students also have their own academic counselor, Alexsandra Cortés. Cortés describes her main responsibility as supporting students, specifically so they can be successful in their first year at OSU — academically, socially and emotionally.

“They have me as their academic counselor, so I can work with them one-on-one, really as often as they need,” Cortés said. 

The CAMP program has two stated objectives, established by the U.S. Department of Education. The first is to ensure that 86 percent of CAMP students finish their first year of college with good academic standing, and the second is that at least 85 percent of students will enroll in a second year of college. 

According to Aduviri, OSU CAMP has two main objectives which are the number of students who finish their first year in good academic standing and complete 36 credits and the number of students who return to OSU for their second year of college. To date, CAMP is able to meet those goals: they typically see about 90-95 percent finish the first objective, and about 95-100 finish the second.

CAMP was originally brought to OSU in the 1980s, but lost the federal funding until 2004, when it was reestablished. Since then, the program has had their funding renewed after each five-year cycle. Aduviri is currently in the process of reapplying for the federal grant, which is due to expire at the end of this academic year. Aduviri considers the migrant farm worker community to be one of the most underserved in the country, and shared his hope for the renewal of the program, in addition to its importance to the OSU community. 

“I think OSU benefits from having this group of students coming here to OSU, because a high percentage of the students graduate within the six-years and some become leaders in their fields,” Aduviri said. “I was just talking to somebody not long ago about how our CAMP students are more involved and more engaged because of the experiences they have. After CAMP, they take roles in clubs, or in Latino associated clubs, or they go study abroad, internships, etc.”

Cortes described one of the greatest impacts of the program as helping families understand the transition to college, especially when students are first generation, in addition to building the confidence of the students in the program. 

“Just helping them understand that OSU is for them, and CAMP is here to help them with anything,” Cortes said. “Even if it’s past their first year, we’re still along to help them. Help them get comfortable, and make OSU their home for a while.”

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