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Office of Academic Engagement kicks off project for migrant high schoolers

Staff members participate in a Dare to Dream Zoom call.
OAE project staff attending Dare to Dream virtual programming via Zoom.

Thirty-two high schoolers from central Washington migrant families will take virtual math or science classes at Washington State University this week, kicking off a unique state-funded, six-month pilot program to promote their academic success.

“We are honored that the Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) selected WSU to receive the $260,095 grant for this program, and our student mentors are excited for the opportunity to work with the Dare to Dream students from now through fall semester,” said Ray Acuña-Luna, director of College Access and Transition Programs in the Office of Academic Engagement (OAE). It is part of the Division of Academic Engagement and Student Achievement (DAESA).

The rising juniors and seniors are members of seasonal farmworker families participating in their high schools’ Migrant Education Program (MEP), an office that provides services and resources to migrant children and their families. As part of OSPI’s MEP, Dare to Dream offers students hands-on instruction in sciences, math, engineering, and self-development.   Dare to Dream students can take courses at a handful of universities for a week in summer, earning a half-credit toward their high-school requirements.

It’s the third WSU program serving migrant students to announce new grant funding this week.

Six-month pilot program at WSU

This year, WSU was chosen by OSPI to receive the grant as the first institution to extend the program across six months.

During the one-week kickoff from June 26-July 2, each Dare to Dream student will be paired with one of three OAE student mentors from similar backgrounds for the remote classes. Each day features five rigorous hours of programming: science or math hour-long classes taught by graduate students, followed by two one-hour personal and professional skill-building workshops, and wrapping up with team building and networking workshops mid-afternoon.

Graduate students teaching the math and science classes are Sajjad Uddin Mahmud, graduate research assistant in electrical engineering in the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture, and Halle Weimar, Ph.D. candidate in neuroscience in the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences.

In the coming months, the WSU student mentors will meet with their Dare to Dream mentees regularly to discuss academic progress and issues, answer questions about college and careers, and provide encouragement and positive support. In November, the Dare to Dream students will visit WSU Pullman to experience first-hand what it’s like to be a college student.

Creating a toolbox for life

“The role of the WSU mentors and our programming is to become trustworthy resources for the high schoolers, helping them fill their toolbox for life,” said Jessica Garibay, coordinator of OAE’s Dare to Dream program. Garibay, a WSU alum, is herself from a seasonal farmworker background and is a first-generation student.

“I didn’t participate myself in Dare to Dream in high school, but I now see the students’ struggles that the program can help alleviate or even prevent. There are so many benefits to the program that it’s easy for me to be passionate about it. It’s an honor to lead this six-month initiative at WSU to provide many kinds of resources to the Dare to Dream students.”

When the WSU pilot concludes in December, an assessment will be conducted. Garibay and Acuña-Luna are confident the program built at WSU can positively impact other Dare to Dream programs across the state in coming years.

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