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MSU program helps migrant farmworkers afford college

The long-standing program continues to help students with financial aid and other resources when they get to campus.

DENVER, Colorado — A higher education is not always accessible for students who come from migrant farm working backgrounds. 

But a program at Metropolitan State University in Denver is helping to change that. 

The College Assistance Migrant Program provides social, academic and financial support for students in their first year of college. Anyone who is a migrant or seasonal farmworker or whose parents worked as one is eligible.

At Metro State, this includes tutoring services, weekly student meetings and academic advising. They also provide $2,000 scholarships, monthly stipends and other financial help such as a textbook allowance.

The program makes a big difference in the lives of the students who are often the first in their family to attend college.

RELATED: Law to give 'basic rights' to Colorado farmworkers draws praise, criticism

Evelyn Aguirre-Rodriguez is a freshman at MSU Denver studying human services. Both of her parents have worked in agriculture in La Junta, Colorado. Her father now works laying pipes to allow water to flow so that crops can get watered properly. He previously picked watermelons in the area. 

Credit: MSU Denver
Evelyn Aguirre-Rodriguez and her father.

“They are so hardworking, and I feel like my dad is an inspiration because it’s the summers. He is out in the hot sun. He is working hard just to provide for us. I think it’s an inspiration,” said Aguirre-Rodriquez. “I am so proud of my roots. I am so proud to be Mexican-American and to know that I might just make it out of a small town and accomplish a big goal of mine because of them.”

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She said she feels like her family's sacrifice has been a gift to her and has inspired her to build on her hardworking roots. 

"It isn’t a simple job. It’s hard work, and it’s stressful," said Aguirre-Rodriguez. "I think it’s so beneficial, and it sucks sometimes but my mom and dad did it. I am glad they did because I think I would be a little bit not as grateful as I am right now to be here." 

Aguirre-Rodriguez found out about the college assistance program when someone from MSU reached out to her while she was searching for colleges. She said that getting additional financial assistance through the program solidified her decision to go to MSU, otherwise she may have gone elsewhere. 

The program also focuses on creating a community of students who can all relate to each other. 

Credit: MSU Denver

Aldo Parra, another MSU student in the assistance program, said he feels that same sense of pride as Aguirre-Rodriguez when he reflects on the work that has helped pave the way for him. 

“I feel extremely proud because I think about it," he said. "Say I go to King Soopers right, who got that produce there, who had to pick it, who had to put it in a box somewhere. I know because I have been there. I’ve seen it, I’ve done it.

Parra's grandfather worked in the fields picking tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, cherries and other types of crops. 

"It was tough work, but he didn't have a choice," Parra said. "He needed to work. He needed the money to support my grandma and his young family at the time."

Credit: MSU Denver
Aldo Parra and his grandfather.

While his grandfather's work did not qualify him for the program, Parra worked in a factory stacking vegetables and fruits, which ultimately led to his eligibility.

He said that work also deepened his appreciation and understanding of his own family's sacrifice. 

"There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for him, after his sacrifice, getting us through where we are right now and building our future," Parra said.

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