Migrant Life and the Inspiration of a Mother

graduation family picture

Left to Right: Merylee’s husband Reymundo Juarez, daughter Lizelena Marie, son Angel Manuel, father Mario Alcala, daughter Alexandra Ines and Merylee Juarez on the day of her GED graduation.

“Termine la escuela. No queremos que sea como nosotros, a trabajar en los campos en el frío y la lluvia.” [Finish school. We don’t want you to be like us and work in the fields in the cold and the rain.] My mom has always encouraged me to get an education and now that I am a mother myself, I truly understand the significance of her words. Even though agricultural work is honorable, migrant life is difficult and as a student, this is especially true. Time becomes a precious commodity when balancing work, school and family responsibilities.

At 10 years of age I started blueberry picking with my family in Michigan for eight months out of the year and then would live in Texas for the rest of the year. Since then I’ve held several migrant jobs including price tagging and shipping field plants. My parents, trying to give us a better tomorrow, would work long hours every day and as one of seven children, I would help to watch my siblings while my parents were gone.

I dropped out of high school in the 10th grade, but watching my mother learn English to apply for a better job while still caring for her family, inspired me to go back to school. I passionately love to help people, just like my mother, but I realized that in order to help others, I had to help myself first. After several hurdles, I enrolled in the U.S. Department of Education’s High School Equivalent Program (HEP).  The HEP assists migrant and seasonal farmworkers and their children to obtain a GED and serves more than 5,000 students every year. It has made a tremendous impact in my life by not only helping me educationally but by also providing job placement assistance.

mother and children

Merylee’s mother, Maria De La Luz Alcala

The HEP really helped me get on the path to achieving my dreams. I may have a long way to go in becoming an elementary teacher and then ultimately a Migrant Student Counselor, but I want my children to look at me like I have looked at my mother since I was a child – as a role model. Her drive and encouragement has been a huge force in my life. This Mother’s Day, I hope she reads this blog and understands how grateful I am for her never ending support and for providing for her children the best way she knew how.

Gracias mama. I will continue to make you proud and prove that all your hard work was not in vain. ¡Porque cuando se quiere, se puede! [Because when you want it, you can achieve it!]

Merylee Jaurez is now a proud college student at South Texas College and President of the Migrant Parent Advisory Council (PAC) and Secretary of the Title I PAC in Monte Alto, Texas.

Interested in learning more about ED’s migrant programs?

Migrant Education Program (MEP): Ensures that children of migrant workers have access to and benefit from the same free, appropriate public education, including public preschool education, provided to other children. The MEP funds help state and local educational agencies remove barriers to the school enrollment, attendance, and achievement of migrant children.

College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP): Assist migrant and seasonal farmworkers and their children to successfully complete the first undergraduate year of study in a college or university, and provides follow-up services to help students continue in postseco