One of those opportunities included the Gainesville, Georgia, woman, now 38, earning her General Educational Development (GED) certificate earlier this year through the High School Equivalency Program (HEP) at UNG.
HEP is a federally-funded grant program that helps migratory and seasonal farm workers and members of their immediate family obtain a GED. The program provides textbooks and materials, GED testing, career readiness workshops, financial assistance, and flexible class schedules.
“I wanted to set a good example for my kids and be a good role model for them,” Ruiz said. “And I wanted to be something else, because without an education you don’t get good jobs. Most companies ask if you have a GED. If you don’t have it, you don’t get a job.”
“HEP students receive help in getting another job, enlisting in the U.S. armed forces or continuing at a post-secondary institution,” said Christian Bello Escobar, director of Migrant Programs and Services at UNG.
While Ruiz wants to continue her education and earn an associate degree at UNG, she is putting her daughter’s college education first.
Torres plans to enroll at UNG in spring 2018 through the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), a federally-funded initiative to increase college attendance and graduation among the nation’s migrant youth. It is a first-year scholarship program that provides students with academic, social and financial support enabling them to complete their first year of college and beyond.
CAMP provides benefits such as supplemental financial aid assistance, one-on-one academic advisement, a textbook stipend, tutoring and mentoring, workshops focused on improving and developing students’ skills, and cultural events/service learning opportunities. In addition, a stipend is awarded during the first academic year to students who actively participate in the program.
Bello Escobar said 35 students completed CAMP in spring 2017 with 29 continuing their education at UNG. Two others have transferred.
Astrid received her first life-saving operation in 2011 to repair the valve in her heart. She spent one week in the hospital and another one at home before asking her mother to return to school.
“She went back,” Ruiz said. “I was very impressed.”
On graduation day, it was Torres’ turn to be impressed with her mother, the GED graduate. She said she was excited to see her mom in a cap and gown this summer at the GED ceremony.
“I got to feel what she felt when she saw me in my cap and gown,” Torres said.
Bello Escobar said Ruiz and Torres were the first family couple to enroll in the HEP and CAMP programs at UNG but are not the last.
“We’re beginning to see more families coming in,” he said. “I know we currently have a son in CAMP and his dad is in HEP at the same time! We also have cousins and siblings of previous students.”