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home : basin farmer : basin farmer May 26, 2016

8/30/2013 1:05:00 PM
Ag workers invited to earn their GEDs
Erik Pague

During an open house held Tuesday, Aug. 13, at the Othello SkillSource Learning Center, the Opportunities Industrialization Center's Isidra Sanchez invited seasonal and migrant workers looking to earn a GED to come in and ask about the programs catered to them. Sanchez, the High School Equivalency Program (HEP) director, came in from Yakima to promote the ways the U.S. Department of Education program is designed to serve farmworkers and help them to improve their lives.
"The program is geared toward offering high school education, or its equivalency, to individuals of seasonal or migrant backgrounds," she said.
In order to qualify for the Washington Farmworker Investment Program, the applicant or someone in his or her household has had to work in the agricultural industry at some point in the last two years. The program is intended to provide assistance and training in order for the applicant to obtain year-round, full-time employment in a higher paying job.
Sanchez said the program serves Grant and Adams counties, including teaching HEP classes in Mattawa, Royal City, Chelan and Quincy, as well as Othello. Applicants can enroll at any time and can choose to attend classes taught in English or Spanish. The high concentration of Mixteco-speaking people in Othello has added a few challenges to improving turnout, Sanchez said.
"We haven't had very many people coming in, unfortunately," she said. "There's a huge population of Mixtecos and there's an additional language barrier ... now we have to get a translator for Mixteco to Spanish."
To address attendance issues, Sanchez said she and her department have been working together with other HEP programs in the area, as well as area school districts.
Normally, students enrolled in the program tend to be heads of households, but Sanchez said their children are also eligible for the program. Still, just demonstrating to children how important seeking out an education is an important part of it, also, she said.
"I think the best example is parents realizing they're earning a GED and serving as role models for their children," Sanchez said. "It empowers them."
Sanchez said seeing families come and support their relatives during graduation helps to solidify how important it is to take their education seriously. After earning a GED, a lot of graduates go into programs to help them learn English or go into specific work training courses, she said.
"Our goal is to ensure they are equipped and ready to enter the workforce, military or college," she said. "We have about 15 percent go into college."
To get more information on possibly attending one of the HEP programs, contact Othello SkillSource at 488-1670 or the OIC office in Yakima at (509) 248-6751.

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