A student in LAUSD's Migrant Education Program designs a rocket in his engineering class. (Claire Jones/L.A. Times High School Insider)
Cleveland Charter High School

LAUSD’s Migrant Education Program supports immigrant families

Through resources and classes on technology, art and English, LAUSD’s Migrant Education Program supports families who have recently migrated to the U.S.

Students learn about rockets in an engineering class at LAUSD’s Migrant Education Program. (Claire Jones/L.A. Times High School Insider)

Through Beyond the Bell, students and parents gather at Harmony Elementary School every summer in South Los Angeles to develop essential skills to further their education.

“Our mission is for our students to go to college, to graduate high school, in spite of all their obstacles,” Migrant Education Program Coordinator Nellie Barrientos said.

Funded by the federal Title I Grant, this program is open to students ages 3 to 21 and parents for no cost. Participants can develop their writing and reading skills through curriculum that is extensively hands-on.

“This is not your typical classroom,” Site Coordinator Lorena Beas said. “When you come into a classroom in the migrant program, it embraces every modality that there is.”

The program is divided by age groups and by interests. The engineering group is learning how to make rockets within the classroom. On the other hand, the technology, art, and writing groups frequent the Los Angeles Zoo to get a behind the scenes look on endangered animals so they can apply this knowledge to web design, poetry and drawing.

“In this program, we really focus on the science and we integrate writing and reading — that makes it engaging, it fascinates the students,” Beas said.

Students raise their hands in an engineering class at LAUSD’s Migrant Education Program. (Claire Jones/L.A. Times High School Insider)

Migrant students may move up to seven times a year and some are even exposed to harmful pesticides which is detrimental to their education, Barrientos said.

For most of these children, English is not their first language, Barrientos said. The curriculum is designed to engage the students while still incorporating the sciences and arts to fully develop their English language skills.

“We do focus a lot on developing their English because, ultimately, that’s their success,” Beas said. “That’s what we want them to achieve at the end because that’s what is going to get them their high school diploma.”

More than anything, this program is intended to be a support system for the children, according to Beas. Both teachers and staff members at Harmony Elementary strive to inspire and motivate the children by empowering them to “be a voice for the voiceless” — as one poetry class lesson emphasized.

“I really want them to feel confident with who they are,” Beas said. “I want to give them those life skills that they’re going to need to survive, to be able to speak up for themselves because they have a voice.”