College of Education Students Work With At-Risk Children

Josh Duke

The Florida State College of Education has long made it a priority to work with those in need in the community. Children of migrant families face a number of challenges, namely an abysmally low high school graduation rate. Only 1 in 10 children of migrant families will graduate from high school. Most migrant families are stuck in a cycle of poverty, and with education being one of the great equalizers, we feel it is vital to provide support. Working with the Panhandle Area Educational Consortium (PAEC) and a coalition of groups on campus, students at the College of Education worked with migrant children this summer.

We interviewed two of our students, Latanja Peoples (School Psychology M.S./Ed.S.) and Madison Lierman (Biology/FSU-Teach), about what it was like to work with children of migrant families and education in general.

Both of these students became involved in PAEC through Laura Ballard Bell, TESOL program coordinator and teaching faculty at the College of Education. Learn more about the FSU TESOL program here.

What are some of the unique challenges facing migrant families, specifically in terms of education?

Madison Lierman: Migrant families, specifically the students, tend to face problems with education due to gaps in their learning. This can cause the students to fall behind in their English learning and in the curriculum for schools. This is the purpose of the PAEC camp—to fill those gaps and prepare them for the next school year.

Latanja Peoples: Unfortunately, the children of migrant agricultural workforce are some of the most educationally disadvantaged children in the Panhandle from my experience working with area schools. Of course, the limited proficiencies in English (speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills) may be an additional educational burden to these students. Area schools faced with temporary, seasonal enrollment increases confront significant challenges in addressing the migrant students’ individual educational needs. The Gadsden County District faces this issue. My heart goes out to these children; they can learn. Most of these children want to learn and have a better life.

What is your favorite part of being a volunteer at PAEC?

Lierman: I really enjoy volunteering with these students. Even though my focus is with secondary education, I have been working with the little kids more than anyone. This has given me the chance to see so many different proficiency levels throughout the ages and introduced me to student proficiency levels who are very unlikely to be in my classroom. I am getting a rounded experience of helping all students. So far volunteering, I have really enjoyed meeting all of the kids and learning about their experiences. I love working with each student and seeing them be excited about learning.

Peoples: The experience has been fantastic; I cannot say that there was one favorite moment because there has been so many.  What a privilege to work with the children and the caring staff (Mrs. Mathis and Mrs. Soto)! The children are well-behaved and ready to learn. As a volunteer at PAEC, the experience is teaching me a better understanding of how these students learn as well as experience teaching the students.

Who inspired you to work in education?

Lierman: My mother is my main inspiration behind me working in education, and she is actually a high school biology teacher as well.

What do you hope to do after you graduate from the College of Education?

Lierman: After I graduate, I plan to become a high school biology teacher.

Peoples: My hope after graduation is to advocate for these students in my role as a School Psychologist to enhance their social, emotional, and educational quality as students.