Education Matters: Migrant Education Office gives one family a nice Christmas

The Dominguez family didn’t know what to expect when they walked into the Migrant Education Office in north Fresno. They were greeted by a staff bringing plenty of holiday cheer.

The Fresno County Superintendent of Schools Migrant Education Office celebrates one of its families every year. This year the staff brought Christmas to Camerino and Crispina Dominguez and their six children.

The young children looked on in wide-eyed wonder as Santa delivered a sleigh packed with presents, but there was also sadness-etched in the faces of this family.

“It brought a lot of memories too. It is our first Christmas without my sister but we have to accept it we have to try to move on,” their daughter Orquidia Dominguez said.

In August, the families eldest daughter 18-year-old Fidela Dominguez was killed in a tragic car accident near Biola. Just three weeks ago, their grandfather passed away. The migrant education staff has been there to support them.

“They came into our area just recently,” said Ruben Castillo, administrator of the Migrant Education Department. “We had just gotten them into our program. We were giving them some services, giving them some help and then all of a sudden this happened, and our department our unit came to bat for them and been with them every step of the way.”

The education path for migrant students is not an easy one. Just listen to 17-year-old Orquidea and her late sister describe what their life is like.

“I would get up at 3, and we leave at 4 – we start work at 5:30 [in the morning].”

The two sisters participated in a video for Learn 4 Life – a mobile learning center that helped them obtain their high school diploma. Both girls worked in the fields to help their family.

“We would live in Madera and then we would go upstate to Washington – then after the crops are done, [we’d] come back to Madera to start working again.”

Despite the challenges of migrant life, both girls earned their high school diplomas.The family now lives in San Joaquin in western Fresno County, and Orqidea wants to continue her education at Reedley College.

Castillo said, “We try hard to move these kids forward, and we want to advance them. And I see myself in them every single day – not just me – I think a lot of us see ourselves and every single day, and so I think it becomes very personal.”

Many of the staff members in the Fresno County Migrant Education Office were once migrant students themselves. They know what it’s like to not have anything extra for Christmas.

That’s why every year, with the help of sponsors like the Educational Employees Credit Union, they make sure at least one family experiences the joy of Christmas.

“We really appreciate it a lot. It means that we have people that care for us; we are not alone on this, and they have been caring for us since the day our sister passed away. And we really appreciate it because they bring joy to my little brothers and sister –  because that’s what we need. They need joy.”

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