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LAUREL FORK — Fernanda Garcia, 17, a senior at Carroll High, takes after her big sister, 22-year-old Adriana, in several ways.
Fernanda got an idea for her career track from her sister, who’s already a registered nurse. The two siblings exercise together, too.
And whenever Fernanda had a question about English, their second language, outside of school, she could go ask Adriana, the first person in her family to attend Carroll County Public Schools.
Both Garcia sisters went to school under the migrant education program, which Carroll educators administer, and took English as a second language classes.
Fernanda is quick to give her older sister credit for many things.
Adriana served as her guide for taking nursing classes and steering her towards getting a certified nursing assistant license.
As summer drew to a close, Fernanda looked forward to taking the final nursing class during her senior year. “I’m going to start taking the LPN class, so I hope that goes well,” she said.
The assistance that Fernanda has received as a student has come from two sources — the migrant tutors during the school session and her sister after returning home after school.
Fernanda remembers the tutors having some one-on-one time for reading.
“They would take me out of class and help me read books,” she said. “I’ve always had helpers that would come in the classroom that would explain the classwork if I didn’t understand.”
She described attending Gladesboro as kind of difficult at the beginning, because she didn’t speak any English.
With the tutors around at school, though, Fernanda felt she always had someone to work with to answer to her questions.
If she felt stumped at home, she could always ask Adriana.
“I knew some words where my sister had gone to school,” Fernanda remembered. “The words they would say, I would come home and ask my sister, ‘What does that mean?’”
For a time, keeping up with her classes would be tough because Fernanda would go back to Mexico with her parents during the school year, but when she entered the sixth grade, the family started staying year-round.
Now, they only go back during break for Christmas and New Year holidays.
Starting school was more difficult for Adriana, because she was the first in her family to go. She has older siblings, but they wanted to work when they arrived in the U.S.
Adriana first came to Carroll County at the end of third grade, began attending school in fourth grade and really felt like she began grasping things in fifth grade.
“In high school, I started feeling like I was fluent,” Adriana said.
Traveling back and forth to Mexico no longer interrupted Adriana’s studies when she found out she could stay with a friend’s family here during the school year.
“My parents would go back and I would stay with their employer’s sister,” Adriana explained. “She had a daughter my age.”
By staying the whole year and living with her friend’s family, Adriana got immersed in the language.
Fernanda and Adriana’s father first sought work on Donald Brady’s farm 30 years ago, the sisters said.
Fernanda believes she’s gotten a good education during her time in Carroll County Public Schools. She described herself as an A-B student. “I work hard — if you work hard you can get good grades.”
Fernanda has an interest in attending Wytheville Community College to continue studies in nursing after she graduates in spring 2014.
The Garcias are an example of a migrant family who, as the term goes, “settled out” to remain in Carroll County all year.
Carroll educators, as administrators of the migrant education program for all of Southwest Virginia from Floyd and Patrick counties west, experience this from time to time, as the workers who follow the crops decide to make this region a permanent home.
“Right now, Southwest Virginia has about 30 families” in migrant education, said Linda Dalton, director of federal programs for Carroll school. “Our migrant population is down just because they’re wanting to stay here.”
By way of comparison, Carroll’s English as a second language students number 142.
“A lot of the families, they just like it here so much they don’t want to go back,” Dalton noted.
“The kids come here as non-English-speakers. We teach them English. As soon as they come in, they’re our kids to educate.”
Usually the tutors are bilingual and Hispanic, which educators find helps with the trust factor.
The migrant education program is currently doing outreach in order to try to find other students to enroll and assist them with their school-related needs.
Migrant families are eligible when the child is younger than 21, the child’s family are migratory agricultural workers or fishers and the family has moved within three years to get work.
• For more information about the program, call Dalton at (276) 728-3191.