What is the goal?
The goal of the Vermont Migrant Education Program (VMEP) is to ensure that all migratory students reach challenging academic standards and obtain life skills that prepares them for responsible citizenship, further learning, and productive employment.
The Migrant Education Program (VMEP) is a federally funded program that works to connect eligible migratory farmworkers and their families to educational resources. In the state of Vermont, VMEP is hosted by UVM Extension with funding awarded by the Vermont Agency of Education.
In order to support migratory students, VMEP collaborates closely with supervisory unions and local schools, teachers, parents, community service agencies, the UVM Extension network and, of course, the agricultural community. Children of migratory workers and adolescents that are working independently are among the most vulnerable and least visible of Vermont’s populations. Because of their transience and isolation, it is easy for these students to fall out of step academically and socially. VMEP serves over 300 students annually with participants mainly coming from rural communities with high concentrations of dairy farms. Eligible work also includes logging, vegetable farming, fruit orchards, hemp and more. Migratory students eligible for VMEP in Vermont and across the country can be of any race, ethnicity, nationality or speak any language.
In the year 1960, Edward R. Murrow’s documentary “Harvest of Shame” showed the American public the working conditions of migratory farmworkers and their families. Part of what the documentary shed light on was the challenge of providing academic continuity for families and individuals that move from farm to farm, community to community following agricultural crops and seasonal harvests. Following its airing, there was a public outcry and a call for action to improve the educational, working, and living conditions of farmworkers and their families. VMEP was created, in part, to respond to this demonstrated educational need of one of the nation’s most vulnerable populations.
Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act was created in the year 1965 as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty” to provide financial assistance to local educational agencies for children from low-income families to help ensure that all students meet challenging academic standards. The Department of Education quickly recognized that migratory students, those who move frequently during the school year doing agricultural work, were still falling behind their peers. As a result, Title I was amended establishing Part C outlining the education of migrant children as a priority (Department of Education’s Office of Migrant Education). Running strong nationwide for over 50 years, VMEP serves hundreds of thousands of migratory students annually assisting them to connect with educational and additional resources available in their communities.
UVM Extension first started to work as part of VMEP in the year 1999. At that time, they were responsible for the identifying and recruiting eligible students. Since 2015, in addition to recruitment, UVM Extension has also been responsible for facilitating the educational services available to VMEP students across the state of Vermont.
How do we provide support?
By working collaboratively with farmworkers, families, farmers, schools and community programs, VMEP ensures that eligible students can access educational opportunities and community resources. In addition, VMEP also provides direct supports such as early literacy and English instruction. Families and farmworkers often face barriers when it comes to accessing education and additional essential services. VMEP staff works hard to eliminate barriers and bridge the gap between these resources and students.
Who qualifies for our program?
There are more than 300 students enrolled in VMEP in the state of Vermont every year. An eligible student can be of any race and/or ethnicity and speak any language.
In order for there to be a migratory child, there must be a migratory worker. Migratory means a worker who has moved at least once within the last 36 months across school district lines to engage in seasonal or temporary agricultural work. A child who moves with a migratory worker across school district lines qualifies for VMEP.
Examples of qualifying agricultural work may include dairy, livestock, fruit, vegetable, hemp and crop work, food processing, maple sugaring, logging, planting trees, and fishing. VMEP will help the worker to determine whether his/her current or past employment includes eligible work.
A child may qualify if the following apply:
- Child is under the age of 22 and has not graduated from high school or another accreditation program; and
- Child has moved across school district lines with a farmworker (parents, guardians, etc.); and
- Parent/guardian has engaged in qualifying agricultural work.
A farmworker without children may qualify if the following apply:
- Farmworker is under the age of 22 and has not graduated from high school or another accreditation program; and
- Has moved across school district lines; and
- Has engaged in qualifying agricultural work after the move.
Stories of eligible VMEP students (names and locations changed)
Dairy work can be temporary (less than 12 months). Laurel and Bob and their three school-aged children move from Pownal, Vermont to Fairfax, VT in July for Bob to take a job as a farmhand on a large dairy. They rent an apartment nearby. They hope to stay long-term at the farm, but after six months, Bob learns of another dairy job in Derby Center that provides housing. The family moves to Derby Center and Bob begins working at the new dairy. Because the family stayed for less than 12 months at the farm in Fairfax, the children qualify for VMEP services upon their arrival in Derby and can be enrolled in the program for three years. If the family leaves Derby for another school district within those three years, the children will continue to be enrolled in VMEP in the new district.
What can VMEP do for this family? VMEP helps the family transfer the kids records from Pownal, and then Fairfax. They work with the family and the school to help the children with schoolwork they missed during their moves. VMEP helps the family advocate for one child to be tested for a learning disability who has demonstrated this need, but because they have moved so frequently in the last year, no school has completed the necessary testing. After testing, the child receives key services that will help her successfully complete school.
A migratory worker under 22 years old can also be a student. Juan, who is 18 and hasn’t finished high school, moves to Vermont from Pennsylvania in September to harvest hemp in Charlotte. This work lasts for a little over two months. The hemp farmer provides temporary housing. Juan qualifies for the Migrant Education Program because he moved from one school district to another and engaged in seasonal hemp work. Juan begins to work on his English language skills and enrolls in the High School Equivalency Program to finish his GED. After the hemp harvest finishes, he finds another job milking cows at a farm in Vergennes, a different school district. Juan moves to milk cows and continues his enrollment in VMEP.
Workers can refer others they think may qualify. Juan tells VMEP about his co-worker David. He has met David’s family and thinks David told him that they moved from Burlington to Charlotte to engage in the hemp harvest. VMEP contacts David and his partner Lucy. Indeed, they were living in Burlington but came to Charlotte to harvest and process hemp because both got jobs that paid better than what they were doing in Burlington. VMEP helps them enroll the kids in school in Charlotte.
Farmers can refer their employees to VMEP. Alicia and Paco and their three-year old arrive at a dairy farm in Richmond after working at another dairy in Maidstone, VT. The farmer asks them how long they stayed in Maidstone and learns that they were there for eight months before learning of this job that brings them closer to family who work at another farm in Richmond. The farmer contacts VMEP to enroll the three-year old because while he hopes this family will stay at his farm long-term, he knows they qualify for VMEP due to their eight-month stint milking cows in Maidstone. He hopes VMEP can help the family enroll the child in preschool. When VMEP arrives to enroll the child, they learn that Paco is 20, and didn’t complete high school. VMEP enrolls Paco as well, and he begins to work on English that will assist him and the farmer to communicate regarding calf care and heat detection. VMEP helps them enroll their child in preschool.
What services are provided?
For eligible students enrolled in school, VMEP offers:
- Parent and school communication support (includes ensuring interpretation/translation is available to student/family).
- School supplies and books.
- Support for school enrollment including early education/preschool.
- Referrals to afterschool, summer and health programs and services.
- Advocacy of educational services that leads to school success and high school completion through constant communication and collaboration with schools.
- Promotion of literacy for ages 3 and up.
- Info on post-secondary opportunities.
For eligible farmworkers, VMEP offers:
- Workplace and community integration support.
- Educational supplies and resources.
- Referrals to community, volunteer and health programs and services.
- Info on educational opportunities such as the High School Equivalency Program, Adult Learning, and local school-based programs.
- Support with goal setting and educational plans.
- Virtual English instruction.
- English instruction is scheduled according to the student’s availability and offered online.
We offer free online English classes to help:
- Improve communication skills.
- Enhance workplace communication.
- Learn essential vocabulary for grocery shopping, money management, agriculture specifics and much more! If you are a VMEP student and interested in taking classes or a community member interested in volunteering to teach English online, please contact Sarah Braun Hamilton.
VMEP is currently accepting volunteers with the following interests and skillsets:
- Virtual English Instruction (must be at least 21 and/or hold a TESOL or Vermont Teaching License).
- Mentoring (must be at least 25).
All volunteers need to successfully complete a background check and complete required training. Volunteer application can be accessed here. Please reach out to Sarah Braun Hamilton with any questions.
VMEP also has donation and material needs. If you are interested in donating educational supplies or funds to support VMEP students, please contact Kelly Dolan.