High school leadership program for farm worker teens held at OSU


MEDIA ALERT: Reporters interested in covering the Oregon Migrant Leadership Institute at Oregon State University this week can contact program director Amas Aduviri at 541-737-3923. Aduviri has suggested Thursday is the optimal day for media coverage as the students will be meeting with representatives from various colleges and learning how to apply for financial aid/scholarships.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University this month is hosting nearly 175 high school students from farm worker families across Oregon through the Oregon Migrant Leadership Institute (OMLI).

This annual leadership institute takes place over three weeks, and each week a different group of students selected from regions around the state participates in the camp. The leadership institute includes group activities, field trips and special mentorship.

A crucial component of the program is pairing high school students with college mentors from farm worker backgrounds. All mentors at OSU are participants in the College Assistance Migrant Program, or CAMP, and not only are bilingual, but come from similar backgrounds and regions to the high schoolers.

Amas Aduviri, director of both CAMP and OMLI, said in addition to education and peer mentorship, the program provides practical information on applying for college and receiving financial aid, which can be crucial to students whose parents may not have graduated from high school.

“It’s a neat experience for them,” Aduviri said. “It provides leadership skills but also teaches them how to apply for scholarships – and they meet representatives from 12 to 16 different colleges.”

Funding for the Oregon Migrant Leadership Institute is provided by the Oregon Department of Education through its migrant education program. Jonathan Fernow, Title 1C migrant specialist for the department, oversees OMLI at the state level and helps with recruitment, as well as tracking the success of OMLI graduates.

The program aims to help OMLI students graduate from high school and encourage more to go on to college. Thus far – at least for students who don’t fall into the highest academic risk category – the effort is paying off.

“I tell these kids they need to graduate high school and go on to college, and they say, ‘That’s easy for you to say, you don’t know what my background is,’” Fernow said. “But some of these OMLI mentors are now graduating from college, and coming from them, the message is more believable.”

During the closing session of week two, students were honored by their college mentors for improvements they had made over the course of the week. Words like ‘blossom,’ ‘confidence’ and ‘sonriente’ (smiling) were used frequently to describe the changes mentors saw in their students

Then the students were allowed to speak about their own experiences.

“I was shy and I’ve changed,” one student said. “I’m coming out of my bubble,” another agreed. The students repeatedly expressed the feeling that they’d found a second family with their OMLI cohort.

“You guys have really helped me become the person I am now and who I want to become in life,” one student said. 

OMLI is a partnership with the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences, the OSU College of Education, OSU Precollege Programs and OSU University Housing and Dining.

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About Oregon State University: As one of only two universities in the nation designated as a land, sea, space and sun grant, Oregon State serves Oregon and the world by working on today’s most pressing issues. Our more than 31,000 students come from across the globe, and our programs operate in every Oregon county. Oregon State receives more research funding than all of the state’s comprehensive public universities combined. At our campuses in Corvallis and Bend, marine research center in Newport and award-winning Ecampus, we excel at shaping today’s students into tomorrow’s leaders.