Migrant students get a helping hand from UTPA's mobile access center
Posted: 03/05/2009
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Nydia Acosta has a better understanding of the type of career she should pursue in the future and what classes to take in high school to better prepare her for college after a recent visit from The University of Texas-Pan American's University Migrant Mobile Access Center (UMMAC).

Sarah Viranda, UTPA's Mobile Go Center coordinator, helps 10th grader Rudy Cortez, a migrant student at Mission High School, with the Career Cruising program.

The initiative is designed to utilize a combination of school and community-based Mobile Go Center visits to deliver college access and readiness information to migrant students and parents.

"Through the Valley Outreach Center, UTPA is assisting this population because students of migrant farmworker families have traditionally been underrepresented in higher education," Sarah Viranda, Mobile Go Center coordinator, said. "We want to offer support and access to migrant students to help them plan out their college careers."

The UMMAC is reaching out to more than 22,000 migrant students in the Region One Education Service area from Laredo to Brownsville, by way of UTPA's Mobile Go Center - an Internet equipped mobile computer lab.

Acosta, a sophomore at Mission High School and migrant student, participated in Career Cruising - a Web-based career and college exploration and planning program where students answer questions and are given suggested careers based on their hobbies and interests - when the mobile unit visited her high school.

Acosta said the program was very helpful and she liked learning about which career she would be best suited for.

"I enjoyed looking at the level of education I would need and the earnings of the different careers I want to pursue. It said I should look for a career in economics," she said. "I think the services are great because we also learn about what kinds of classes we're supposed to take now to prepare us for college."

Viranda said migrant students face many educational challenges due to their status.

"Because of interruptions in their education, migrant students are more likely to miss out on a school's planned career and college information events or activities since they leave," Viranda said. "If they are behind in their academic progress, they are also less likely to be allowed to participate in visits to college campuses, so we are here to help them plan out their college career early on and give them access to those things they missed," Viranda said.

The UMMAC, which was made possible through the support of the TG Public Benefit Program, provides financial aid services by helping students and parents with filling out and submitting the FAFSA online. It also helps them apply for admission to Texas universities, provides the Career Cruising program, and offers an interactive Spanish DVD, "Camino Al Colegio," to migrant parents.

"I believe that the Go Center through the UMMAC project can make a difference with migrants because the mobile center will give special attention to this population which is much needed," Viranda said. "We will encourage them through one-on-one mentoring and show them that they can go to college and pursue a career. You don't have to continue working in the fields. We can help you."

The mobile center is free of cost and school districts and organizations throughout the Rio Grande Valley are encouraged to take advantage of the UMMAC for their migrant events. For more information or to reserve the mobile unit, call Viranda at 956/292-7597 or visit