California State University, Long Beach
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Programs Support Hispanic Students

Published: September 15, 2015

CSULB has several programs designed to support Hispanic students in a variety of ways well before they enter college and then continue that support once on campus. One of those is the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), which assists students who are migrant or seasonal farmworkers, or children of such workers, in receiving a university degree.

“Our goal is to get them here and get them through their first year—which is the hardest—then get them to come back for a second. We give them the resources then refer them to the Educational Opportunity Program, Hispanic Serving Institutions: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, Student Support Services programs, and other programs,” said Rafael Topete, director of CAMP.

“We are one of the few federally funded programs that are allowed to recruit and target areas where these students come from. We also have alumni who bring people here, and we are now working directly with the corporate growers to bring in students. Our recruiting targets seniors first and then juniors. Without the support and funding of this program, we could not actively recruit students for this program, and they would not experience the first year and graduate success they currently are experiencing,” he added.

One of the ways he helps get them here is the Pursuing Academics Through Higher Education Studies (PATHS) program, which is run though CAMP. During the summer, the week-long PATHS program allows migrant students to participate in educational events and activities, jump-start their academic success by attending college prep courses and test prep courses, receive an introduction to college and provides the opportunity to meet and network with other migrant students.

“Since cost is a big factor in selecting a college, we tell them early on in the recruitment process that price and cost of attendance are different and not to look at that,” said Topete.

Topete cites examples of the high school students and/or family members working in the fields. He said one student spent six months in Salinas, four months in the Yuma, Az., area and one month in Washington State picking apples in the same year. He said another family lives part of the year in Coachella and another part in Bakersfield.

He defines a seasonal farm worker as someone whose employment requires travel which keeps them from returning to a permanent home within the same day. It includes any activity directly related to the production of crops, dairy products, poultry, grazing, feeding or selling of livestock, production of bulbs, flower seeds, vegetables, plants or vines. It also includes cultivation or harvesting of trees, sod farms, nurseries, orchards, mushroom cellars, cranberry bogs, fish farms or any other agricultural activity performed for either wages or personal subsistence, on a farm, ranch or similar establishment.

“During high school, we want to make sure they are taking the right courses so they are admissible to a CSU and or UC. My goal is to get them to go somewhere, but if they come here (CSULB), that is icing on the cake,” Topete said. “Part of our success is that we target alumni of the program to keep a connection and show students their success stories. Here’s proof that you can do this. We use the successful alumni as examples. It’s also inspiring for us because it’s great for us to see what our work is yielding.”

He said they have created a welcoming community for incoming students, current students, parents and alumni. He noted that on any given day there are many former CAMP students in the program’s office.

“They come back for welcome day and say hello and we also have functions throughout the year where alumni come back,” he said.

Alumni of the program have gotten internships at places like Northrop Grumman, the White House, the Department of Veteran Affairs, various school districts, congressional offices and the FBI. Often these internships lead to part-time and later full-time employment.

Topete said involving the parents is very important to student success and he designs activities for them as well as making them feel part of the CAMP family.

“One activity we do is have the parents write a letter that they would write on the night before their child’s college graduation, and we get a lot of people breaking down. We definitely buy tissue boxes for that activity. Parents say things to them that they haven’t said before, but graduation is an achievement for the parents as well,” he said.

Programs That Serve Underrepresented Groups