Program helps local migrants reach educational success
These days, South Adams educator Susie Amstutz is spending much of her time waiting for the arrival of migrants with families to come into the area to assist mainly with harvest and packing for Red Gold in Geneva.
Thanks to a federal grant, Title I, Part C, a supplemental educational program is available solely for the purpose of assisting migrant students.
Amstutz said that the program is designated for the use of families who have moved into the area to work in agriculture.
"There are strict guidelines how to meet certain criteria for the state level," said Amstutz. "The program provides minimal service during the day."
The main focus is assisting the migrant young people when they are out of school. It is designated to include assistance to those between the ages of three and 21, Amstutz said.
"We hope to extend our hours so we can better reach these children," said Amstutz. "We were able to help one student get final credits for graduation last year. That is our goal, to help guide them to graduation.
"They leave school early, and they're not back until October," continued Amstutz.
Amstutz said that a new grant that came up in July referred to as 2013 Materials Refresh, which is still part of the Title I, Part C, has allowed the local program to propose the purchase of a mobile classroom, not only for use in the South Adams school district, but in other school districts to serve other students.
Amstutz said that the proposed classroom would be open from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m., six days a week, with Saturday's hours being given flexibility.
Amstutz compared the advancement of educational opportunities for those with need through the migrant program to a cupcake.
She noted that like cupcakes are made from the cake part, the icing, sprinkles and cherry, migrant students are required to meet the criteria of several steps before moving on to see if qualification is possible for the next phase. She noted that qualification for each phase is based on the child's individual needs.
"It's supplemental," said Amstutz. "It supplements what they are already taught in the classroom."
Amstutz emphasized that none of this replaces classroom work, but simply supports and assists with it.
"Most families are employed through Red Gold," said Amstutz. "Fresh pack is over in October. Few families stay, but our grant is available year around."
There is another special heart touch in Amstutz's involvement with the migrant program. She was also a migrant, raised in a migrant home, and like many of the students, she struggled with the school situation when she was a child.
"My parents focused on a mobile lifestyle. I was from a valley in Texas; we set tomatoes, picked tomatoes and hoed sugar beets in North Dakota," explained Amstutz.
Bent on helping others who were experiencing the educational challenges that she did, Amstutz attended Ball State University to get a degree in special education with an emphasis on those who are hearing impaired.
"When I came out of college, the only place for me to get a job was Adams Central," said Amstutz. "When I came to this area, I met my husband (Dean) and that is why I am here.
"It's the kind of life where you pay it forward," continued Amstutz. "My teachers have helped me to make it successful. I love it all. The kids can't say, 'you don't understand.' We are more like equals. I feel that the kids relate to me better. It's amazing how it all came together."
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