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From Myakka to Michigan – Giving Migrant Students a Chance to Succeed

From Myakka to Michigan – Giving Migrant Students a Chance to Succeed

Harold Medina has dedicated his professional life to working with migrant and immigrant students. A
first-generation Dominican born in New York City, he is currently the Coordinator of the Migrant
Education Program for the School District of Manatee County. Medina is pictured with Judy Achre,
Program Director of the Rotary Club of Longboat Key at the Club’s January 29th meeting where he was
the guest speaker. Medina clarified that a “migrant” is a person who moves from one area to another
within the country due to economic necessity, usually pursuing work in agriculture or in the fishing
industry; an immigrant, on the other hand, is one who migrates from one country to another.
“Getting a consistent education can be almost impossible for migrant students,” stated Medina, who
explained the difficulties faced by students who are continually uprooted as their families pursue work
in agriculture, harvesting the crops in Florida, North Carolina, Michigan, and back to Florida. Their
challenges include having no chance to settle and to put down roots; having no downtime, as many
students also labor long hours in the fields; having little access to translators; and finding that their
school credits often do not transfer from one jurisdiction to another. The unfortunate result is a high
drop-out rate and cyclical poverty.

Medina and his team work with approximately 474 students in Manatee County to provide “roots” that
will transfer with them as they and their families move on to the next job. Migrant students are given
priority placement in pre-K programs conducted at several Title I schools. Migrant Enrichment programs
for Kindergarten through 8th grade include after-school tutoring or home school liaisons. Migrant
Summer Programs conducted at McNeal Elementary School, Nolan Middle School, and Lakewood Ranch
High School foster student interest in subjects ranging from science to civics in a fun setting. Parent
outreach, engagement, and education programs are also provided, including English as a second
language, family literacy, computer classes, credit recovery, and referral services. Medical services are
also made available through local partners. Scholarships are awarded to graduating seniors who are
continuing their education. Medina and his team collaborate with a host of local organizations in
providing these services, including Church Women United, Unidos Now, Manatee Rural Health, Healthy
Start Manatee, Lighthouse of Manatee, Healthy Teens, Centerstone, Parenting Matters, the Manatee
Library, and many others.

Those who are Interested in helping these students beat the challenges that they face can consider the
following: volunteer at events or serve as a mentor or a tutor; donate lightly-used clothing and
household goods; donate funds to support services that are not otherwise covered by grants; sponsor a
scholarship for a graduating senior to further his or her education. For more information, contact Harold
Medina at medinah@manateeschools.net or at 941-751-6550 ext. 2333. To learn more about the Rotary
Club of Longboat Key, visit longboatkeyrotary.org.