Summer leadership program provides encouragement for future goals
BY TARA BOZICK - TBOZICK@VICAD.COM
September 21, 2008 - 10:12 p.m.
Sixteen-year-old Dulce Perez vows to overcome all obstacles to improve her life.
Dulce, a junior at Calhoun High School, comes from a family of eight kids – two girls and six boys. As the oldest, she and her brother help watch the younger siblings, often helping them with their homework. Dulce’s mom has survived on being a migrant worker, traveling to the jobs.
The family has lived in Port Lavaca the past three years, and Dulce’s mom hopes to find a job at an area plant. Before coming to this city, they lived in Seadrift and the Valley.
Her mom wants Dulce to be independent.
“She doesn’t want us to suffer like she did,” Dulce said.
While her mother always encouraged her to get good grades so she could get grants and scholarships for college, a summer training program really inspired her to focus.
Dulce and three other students who live in migrant families – Xavier Puentes from El Campo ISD, Elizabeth Luna from Boling ISD and Luz Stephanie Jaime from Palacios ISD – traveled to Washington, D.C., July 20 to 26 for a leadership program hosted by the Bert Corona Leadership Institute, which serves youth living in migrant families and farm communities.
The students went with the Texas Migrant Interstate Program in Region III Education Service Center, which helps 216 students in 11 counties, migrant recruiter Mary Lou Canales of Victoria said.
It marked the first time Region III migrant students went to such a program, Canales said. Students in migrant families, both Mexican and Vietnamese, have always moved from one town to another in search of work.
With the higher gas prices, the families seem to be staying in one place longer and at least wait till the end of semesters before moving, Canales said.
“I’ve been telling my friends,” Dulce said about the trip. “They never thought a Mexican or Hispanic girl would go all the way to Washington, D.C.”
Her favorite part was meeting U.S. Representative Ruben Hinojosa, who represents District 15, which includes DeWitt, Goliad and Refugio counties.
The teenagers asked the congressman what he would do to help after school programs, improving aid for higher education and outsourcing jobs to other countries. Dulce had the job of thanking him for his time, which she stepped up to do even though she was nervous.
She was so surprised Hinojosa handed them his business card and told them to write.
The students did the same for aides with Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn.
“Oh, it was so wonderful,” Dulce said, adding she loved visiting the White House and Capitol. “I was the only visually impaired person there and I still got to see everything.”
The trip definitely boosted Dulce’s self-esteem, Canales said. Dulce is blind in one eye and needs glasses for the other. Canales always tells her students that everyone has a disability of one kind or another, but not to let it hold them back.
Other limitations for these migrant students include getting school supplies. The students needed help getting tennis shoes, clothes and suitcases for the trip.
Even so, the trip inspired them to become more active in the community and to keep learning. Dulce, born in Mexico, is working on getting citizenship.
“Your vote is where your voice is,” Canales told the students. “Don’t let what you’ve learned – don’t put it on a shelf as a souvenir. Inspire someone else.”
That’s what Dulce hopes to do as a teacher someday. A blind teacher taught her life skills in the Valley and was an encouraging example. He moved and acted like he wasn’t even blind, she said.
“If we work hard, we can achieve what we want,” Dulce said.