California State University, Long Beach
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CAMP A Life Changer For One Student

Published: September 15, 2015

For CSULB construction engineering management major Leo Trejo, the CSULB College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), was truly life-altering. CAMP assists students who are migrant or seasonal farmworkers, or children of such workers, in receiving a higher education.

Trejo’s father originally discouraged him from attending college, instead encouraging him to continue working his three jobs. The father later realized how important it was for him to graduate from college and was emotional at his CAMP commencement ceremony.

“At the beginning my dad wasn’t thrilled about me coming here, but Rafael (Topete, director of CAMP) had a talk with him and told him this will make your son’s life better, He couldn’t understand how my life could be better if I wasn’t working so much,” said Trejo, who had an internship with Oltman’s Construction Company that turned into a part-time job. The employment provides him with some money for education and great experience given his major.

“My dad couldn’t see a return on investment. ‘How do I know my son will be better off with this? How can you go from something you know to something you’re not sure about?'” said Trejo. “But then at my CAMP graduation my parents were really proud. He really didn’t understand, but he really got an eye-opener.”

“CAMP helped me a lot especially in my freshman year. It provided tutoring, and emotional support. It helped me the summer after freshman year so I didn’t get kicked out of school because of academic problems. It’s kind of like a family thing here. It really does feel that way,” added Trejo, who continued working three jobs in addition to going to school as a freshman. “They help you like your own family would because they really do care. They know my family and have events for parents because my parents have never been to college so they don’t know what it’s like.”

He said it’s been a difficult road on his path to success, but he won’t give up.

“My schedule was to go to class, go to work, go to work, go to work, sleep, go to class,” said Trejo. “I had no time to study and my grades were reflective of that. So I had to make a decision not to listen to my dad. I stopped working except for one job. CAMP said you’re doing too much so I compromised.”

Trejo said he wants to be an inspiration for his younger siblings in high school.

“I want to be someone they can follow. My brother just got into Sato Academy (a competitive high school that starts to prepare students for careers in engineering). If I didn’t encourage him he would not be there,” he said. “This place taught me the value of school. I know people who work three jobs at age 30 and struggle to make it. It taught me that school really does get you a better life economically. I can pay all my bills. If I wouldn’t be here I would be back working three jobs and trying to make ends meet.”

Leo Trejo (l) with his mother, Arceli.
Leo Trejo (l) with his mother, Arceli.

Speaking of returning to CAMP frequently, “CAMP’s people that have helped me out a lot. The students at CAMP – I need their help and they need mine. I show them they can make it,” he said “CAMP invited my family in and that really helped and thanks to that they are encouraging my sisters and brothers to do it. If you have the opportunity, you have to take it. How many people come up to you and say we’re going to help you? Not a lot.”

He said his parents are much more supportive of his education and have come to see the value for him and his siblings.

“There was a time I couldn’t talk to my dad about school. If I couldn’t talk to my dad who could I talk to?” he said. “That’s why I came here for opinions and advice. Other programs are not so personally involved. It was tough but I knew I was old enough to make my own decision, The day I got hired at the construction company my dad was happy but said to stay in school. I have two more years until I get my degree, but I will keep my job while going to school. The company understands school is first and work is second. They are flexible, and hopefully I will be working full-time there someday. Dad wasn’t really supportive for two years, but when I got the internship he got to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”