NEOSHO, Mo. — A program at Crowder College is helping migrant workers in the area get a start on academic accomplishments.
“Often, they are completely starting from scratch,” said Lisa O’Hanahan, director of Crowder’s College Assistance Migrant Program. “Sometimes they travel in trailers; sometimes they stay in migrant farm housing provided by a farmer. The living conditions aren’t always the best.”
The college has been approved for a $2.375 million federal grant that will fund the program for the next five years.
The program targets migrant and seasonal farmworkers who travel across the county, going where growing seasons create work opportunities. It offers them funds to cover their freshman year of college, including tuition costs, books, room and board, and monthly stipends. It also covers advising and resources to help the student reach graduation.
Crowder’s program will cover those costs for 30 on-campus students and 10 commuters, O’Hanahan said.
O’Hanahan said her department was excited to learn the program, which has run for the past 20 years, would be funded for another five years.
“Out of 38 applications across the country, only 15 were accepted and funded nationwide,” O’Hanahan said. “It can be a little competitive. We’re excited to be able to maintain our program.”
She said the Four-State Area has its share of migrant workers whose jobs include baling hay, harvesting strawberries, harvesting walnuts and working at turkey farms. They travel through to Texas and follow growing seasons.
Usually migrant workers come from families where almost every member does similar work. O’Hanahan said that Crowder’s College Assistance Migrant Program can help a family make education a priority.
“These are usually first-generation students, but it impacts the whole family after that,” O’Hanahan said. “After that first student, maybe a brother will attend college for the first time, then a sister will follow. We love seeing that educational trajectory change.”
Participants must be either U.S. citizens or legal residents and must be employed on a migrant or seasonal basis in agricultural jobs directly involved with the food supply. The positions are not open to people who work in processing plants or other after-harvest operations.