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Migrants find support in Manatee’s school district

Migrant students on winning scholarships at 30th Annual Migrant Education Awards

Migrant students speak Tuesday about winning scholarships for college during the 30th Annual Migrant Education Awards, held in Palmetto High School. Video by Amaris Castillo.
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Migrant students speak Tuesday about winning scholarships for college during the 30th Annual Migrant Education Awards, held in Palmetto High School. Video by Amaris Castillo.

The life of a migrant is ever-changing, but one thing remains constant: the support each student receives in the School District of Manatee County.

In the local context, migrants are people who move throughout Florida and the United States, usually for seasonal work. The families may harvest oranges in Florida, apples in Michigan and sweet potatoes in North Carolina.

Students could move several times each year, landing in a new school district with unfamiliar faces and expectations, said Harold Medina, migrant coordinator for Manatee’s school district.

The district’s Migrant Education Program currently supports about 445 students and families. Many of the families struggle with poverty, Medina said, describing students who could use a jacket or a pair of long pants during the winter.

“We have to take care of the child’s basic needs before they can learn,” Medina said.

One of the most basic needs is health care. For that reason, the migrant program holds two resource fairs each year, where families receive health screenings, information sessions and referrals.

This year’s events were largely funded by a $5,330 grant from the Cassidy Family Foundation Fund, a gift made through the Manatee Community Foundation.

Each event falls under a program called Las Familias Saludables, meaning “healthy families.”

The district’s migrant program is collaborating with several organizations to offer events between December and January:

  • Dec. 6 — annual resource fair at East Coast Migrant Head Start, 34590 State Road 64 E., in Myakka City, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Dec. 8 — annual resource fair at Tillman Elementary School, 1415 29th St. E., in Palmetto, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Jan. 12 and Jan. 26— follow-up events at Falkner Farms, 35100 State Road 64 E., in Myakka City, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The events are solely for migrant children and families, but anyone can drop off a donation of new and lightly-used clothes or toys, Medina said.

UnidosNow and the Healthy Teens Coalition of Manatee County will host information sessions. The Florida Department of Health will offer blood pressure checks and diabetes screenings, along with testing for sexually transmitted diseases and hepatitis.

All efforts are linked to the goal of helping migrant students graduate from high school, Medina said. His program offers tutoring, college tours and other services, along with much-needed school supplies and clothing.

Medina said anyone who wants to support the Migrant Education Program can reach him by emailing medinah@manateeschools.net, or by calling 941-751-6550, extension 2333.

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