Roberto Trinidad remembers being surprised when a representative from the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) at Oregon State came to his high school in Nyssa, Ore., to talk about college. They told Trinidad, the oldest of five children, that CAMP, a competitive grant program, was set up for migrant workers and their children – it supports them financially and academically throughout their first year of college. Suddenly the idea of college, which had seemed far-fetched, started to look possible.
“I never thought there would be a program focused on the needs of different students from different backgrounds,” Trinidad says.
When he decided to attend Oregon State with the help of CAMP, Trinidad also participated in START Bilingüe, the freshmen orientation program geared towards Spanish-speaking families. His entire family accompanied him on his first trip to campus, which isn’t unusual among Latino families like Trinidad’s – especially since he was the first in his family to graduate from high school and go to college.
Both experiences helped Trinidad, now a senior majoring in Spanish and ethnic studies, feel at home at Oregon State, which is exactly what the programs were intended to do. “I’ve kept in contact with the people I’ve met during CAMP and START Bilingüe. The Latino community here is really close,” says Trinidad.
Oregon State’s CAMP program has been active on campus for the past six years and has helped more than 200 first-year students from migrant and seasonal farmworker backgrounds. Its lowest retention rate from first to second year was 97% after CAMP’s first year. Last year their retention rate was 100%.
“This is a whole new experience and for CAMP participants, it is their first time on a college campus, for most of the students and their families,” says Amas Aduviri, the director of CAMP. “The decisions they make about higher education will have a positive results on their families and their communities and opens up the option for anyone to go to college in their community.”
CAMP’s success has been so impressive that the program’s grant was recently renewed for another five years. “We’ll be seeing students from migrant and seasonal farm worker backgrounds coming to OSU in the next five years who otherwise might not have gone to college at all,” says Aduviri.
Five years ago, programmers (Alicia Ortega from Admissions and Kris Winter from New Student Programs and Family Outreach) created START Bilingüe when they recognized that the typical START orientation program did not accommodate for the language barrier of Spanish-speaking families or large families. This past summer, more than 30 students and their families participated in the program.
The programs helped Trinidad so much that he wanted to give back. He got involved helping other students through the START orientation program. Trinidad provides support to families by translating and talking with new students and their families. “I really enjoy working with students and giving them their first impression of what campus is like,” he says.
Through volunteering for START, Trinidad found his passion: helping bring higher education to future generations of Latino families. He’s good at it, too – Trinidad’s sister has decided to come to Oregon State.
“I want new students to be able to say when they arrive on campus, ‘this can be my campus, I can go here,’” Trinidad says.
-Story by Darryl Lai