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NMSU college assistance migrant program among handful in U.S. refunded

After 15 years of helping students at New Mexico State University, the university’s College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) is among a select few to receive another five-year grant from the U.S. Education Agency’s Office of Migrant Education.


Group of people talking
Cynthia Bejarano, far left, meets with College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) staff members and students outside the CAMP offices at Milton Hall. (Photo by Darren Phillips)

“We are one of only eight existing CAMP programs in the nation that received approval for more federal funding,” said Cynthia Bejarano, principal investigator of the program and a Regents Professor in the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies. “We are grateful to be able to serve another generation of CAMP students”

The $2.1 million grant will fund the program at NMSU through 2022.

“I was very happy to hear that NMSU CAMP received a new grant award that will continue the long legacy that CAMP has had so far in being of service to student farmworkers,” said CAMP program manager Michelle Montano. “Through this funding many more farmworking students will be able to realize their dreams and have the opportunity and support necessary to attend college and graduate with a degree.”

The students enrolled in CAMP at NMSU are the children of migrant and seasonal farmworkers and some also may have been or are farmworkers. CAMP students have a 93-percent retention rate after their first year at NMSU, Bejarano said, while 77 percent of NMSU CAMP bachelor’s graduates have stayed in the New Mexico workforce.

Unlike previous years that only allowed for students living on campus to receive full funding for meals and housing, as well as stipends for textbooks, the 2017-2022 funding will now extend also to commuter students.

Bejarano said the program will continue to assist 30 students, with 20 living on campus and 10 commuting from around Doña Ana County. This number will fluctuate from year to year but the program aims to have 30 students enrolled each year.

These 30 students will also receive a $1,500 scholarship for their first two semesters, as well as both book stipends and meal plan allowances. After that they will work with Sarah Gallegos and Jaime López, academic advisers in the program, to secure additional scholarships to help them with their tuition.

“I help them with financial aid, finding jobs, resumes, mock interviews,” Gallegos said. “Basically anything they need to help them succeed and graduate.”

CAMP students who progress to their sophomore, junior and senior years become eligible to be hired by NMSU’s CAMP to become peer mentors, which Bejarano credits with the program’s high retention rates.

Jose Luis Serrano is a sophomore at NMSU studying Spanish. He was recruited to NMSU by CAMP last year and said the program is life changing.

“The program has helped me in every way you can think of,” Serrano said. “Financially, academically. From the class support to the advising, the peer mentors, stipends, the computer labs, tutoring, they really care.”

López said all but two of the program’s 410 students in the past 15 years have been first-generation college students. The two students were siblings, whose mother was attending NMSU when the elder sibling applied to NMSU.

“Coming to college they tend to feel lost,” he said. “We’re here to help them through the college system, especially their first year.”

CAMP has a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics focus for its students and as of May 2017, there were 24 former CAMP students enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences, 11 in the College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, and 22 in the College of Engineering.

The program is also able to sponsor summer programs for the students, specifically with the Bridge Inspection Program through David Jauregui’s efforts from the Civil
Engineering Department, and the Medicinal Plants Program through the efforts of Laura Rodriguez-Uribe, from the Plant and Environmental Sciences Department. These programs further promote the program’s STEM focus and are funded with RPSP funding from the State Legislature.

The program welcomed students and their parents and families on August 12 and 14.

“NMSU CAMP has been instrumental in helping students graduate from NMSU and achieve careers that have impacted their families and communities as well,” Montano said.