By Ivon Garcia, NMSHSA Collaboration Office
As a first-generation immigrant, my family and I have worked and cared for the fields of my hometown. I understand the value of hard work, not only because I have seen it in my family members, but because I have experienced it myself. I worked some summers picking and packing cherries for distribution, as well as thinning apples. When days seemed long and frustration kicked in, I would daydream about where I would travel if I could leave my town behind. My dreams were to one day attend college so that I could expand my future. The lack of representation for Latinos in positions of power, as well as a lack of opportunities in general, pushed me to reach for more.
In my family there was an expectation to graduate from high school and, if possible, attend college. I graduated from high school in 2010 and was admitted to Washington State University (WSU), where I began to expand my knowledge.
In 2012, I had the opportunity to be part of the Inaugural Class of the National Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Association Summer Internship Program. That summer I learned that, if you provide a student with an opportunity, then their possibilities are endless. I was placed with the Association of Farmworker Opportunities Program (AFOP) where I learned even more about the different resources they give to farmworkers to improve the quality of life for themselves and their families. The DC bug bit me and I knew that one day I would return.
I continued with my education and in 2015 I graduated from WSU with a Bachelor of Arts in Human Development. To see the happiness on my parent’s face assured me that is was one of the best investments I ever made.
I was given the chance to return as the Internship Coordinator in the summer of 2015. It felt great to be back helping new students navigate Washington, DC. I saw them go through the same transformation I went through the first time I came. Students come to DC not knowing where their paths will lead but with so much potential, and at the end of the internship they are ready to take on the next step.
At the end of the summer, a position with the National Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Collaboration opened up. No one prepares you for the hardest decision that can change your life. I was scared to leave my small town, but I was excited that I was given an opportunity. I sat down with my dad one day and asked him what he would do. He looked at me in the eye and said, As parents we search for the happiness and opportunities for our children. “Como padres buscamos la felicidad y oportunidades para los hijos”. I left my country in hopes that my children could do more than what I had done.
Currently I work with the National Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Collaborations Office which promotes high-quality, direct-service delivery through collaboration, coordination, and alignment of services for all MSHS grantees and delegate agencies. I was the first in my family who took a chance and moved across the country for opportunities I could not find at home. I arrived seeking to explore options and gain experience. I have worked in my position for the past 3 years, where I support and develop resources for families who are like mineOne of those resources is an app called Migrant Head Start Locator, which can be used by farmworkers to search for Migrant Head Start Centers and Community Health Centers as they migrate to other states for work. I also serve as the Vice- President to the National Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Association Summer Internship Program Alumni Board. My fellow Board members and I strive to provide professional development to past NMSHSA alumni of the program while giving back to our communities.
Coming from a farmworker background has taught me the meaning of dedication and perseverance: that you never give up on a dream, even if it seems unattainable.
Ivon Garcia interned with AFOP’s Health & Safety program for NMSHSA’s inaugural internship program in 2012. She is a former child farmworker who now works with the National Migrant & Seasonal Head Start Collaboration Office.