New Mexico State University's College Assistance Migrant Program is among a handful in the country selected to receive another five-year grant from the U.S. Education Agency's Office of Migrant Education. The $2.2 million award will allow the university to continue helping students who are migratory or seasonal farmworkers or the children of these workers through their first year of college.
"We are very grateful to receive these federal funds," said Cynthia Bejarano, principal administrator of the program. "There were 50 programs competing for this grant and only eight were re-funded. We also receive some funding from the state as well, but resources available to support these programs are shrinking and this has been a difficult year."
NMSU's CAMP has been funded continuously since 2002, and the new award will support the program through 2017. The announcement comes after CAMP celebrated its 10th anniversary at the NMSU campus last fall and was named among the top performing programs in the country. Bejarano said that thanks to the grant, all of the CAMP staff members who have contributed so much to the program's success will remain on board.
"It's wonderful to see our migrant assistance program receive national recognition through the renewal of this very competitive federal grant," said Christa Slaton, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
"The fact that this program is one of a limited number in the country to receive a five-year award speaks volumes about the value of the work they are doing for students in this region."
In the coming year, the program will add an additional focus to the many kinds of support CAMP already provides for its students. The organization will build on 10 years of partnerships with 41 NMSU and community agency collaborators in promoting science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) priorities. The program will continue to support CAMP students majoring in all university colleges and disciplines but will have an added component called "STEM/CAMP embedded experiences."
"Exposing our incoming freshmen to STEM areas of study is a key shift in our program starting this year. Incorporating the STEM CAMP embedded experience for these students for the next five years will expose them to various research fields through our many partner programs, such as the Minority Biomedical Research Support- Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Alliance for Minority Participation and many others," Bejarano said.
CAMP funding provides support for the students' freshman year, but Bejarano explained these students continue to need help beyond that first year. The program uses its state funding and donor support to help students in their sophomore year and beyond with book stipends, but these days students need more than just books.
"The demands of STEM fields require computers, calculators and other technology-based learning devices and the funds we have can only stretch so far," Bejarano said, "We have a high success rate for the students who come through NMSU's CAMP program, but for those students who fail to complete their degree, the reason tends to be the lack of financial resources."
Slaton pointed to Bejarano, a criminal justice associate professor who founded CAMP at NMSU and who continues to be a driving force keeping the program going, as just one example of the many faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences who sacrifice their own grant-funded research in order to generate funds that focus on helping students.