HENDERSONVILLE, N.C. (May 10, 2023) — The North Carolina Migrant Education Program (NCMEP) has named Henderson County Public Schools winner of the Outstanding Migrant Education Program for 2023.
The designation recognizes Henderson County Public School’s ongoing efforts to bring support and educational services to the migrant families who work in the local agricultural industry each year.
Headed up by Simone Wertenberger, ESL/Migrant Education Programs Director for HCPS, the program was cited for its ability to connect children, particularly those of pre-kindergarten age, to education services; its coordination with other community resources; and its efforts to engage parents with creative initiatives.
Paid for with federal funds, the program is available to migrants 3 to 21 years old who are in Henderson County at certain times of the year because of the high availability of agricultural jobs.
Services include health care referrals, guidance and counseling, enrichment programs, translation, transportation and more. All combined, they point to a common goal, that of leveling the field for migratory children who come to areas with little to no stability in terms of school and health care.
“Henderson County Public Schools is extremely proud of our Migrant Education Program and the team for earning this honor. We are grateful that the Department of Public Instruction recognizes the great work that we get to see in action each and every day. Our folks set the standard for what it is to be an exemplary MEP program. Most importantly, their tireless work is changing lives for the better,” said Mark R. Garrett, Superintendent for Henderson County Public Schools.
The program serves children whose family has moved to Henderson County within the last three years seeking seasonal/temporary employment in the following areas: Production or Processing of Farm Crops
Dairy, Poultry or Livestock Farming, Cultivation and Harvesting of Trees, Shrubs or Plants, Fishing or Fish Farming.
“Henderson County depends on agriculture as a vibrant part of our economy and our community culture. HCPS is proud to support the migrant farmworker families that are so vital to that part of Henderson County’s identity,” said Simone Wertenberger.
Each summer, Henderson County welcomes roughly 4,000 temporary residents. The residents arrive with the growing season in Spring, and stay until the work is complete around the end of October. Most of the families travel between North Carolina and Florida.
“This district has a big Out of School Youth (OSY) population, and they have gone above and beyond to ensure that these students receive the best service and support possible,” said Dr. Heriberto Corral, Data and Parent/Family Coordinator, Federal Programs for the NCDPI.
During a presentation of the award to HCPS earlier this week, Corral noted that the HCPS Migrant Education Program has implemented a variety of initiatives to support students, including personalized instruction and access to social-emotional learning resources.
“One of the outstanding qualities of this year’s winner is their ability to excel in interstate coordination,” he said. “This district’s commitment to collaboration and communication has resulted in a comprehensive and coordinated system of support for migrant students that is unmatched in the region.”
HCPS works closely with other states and agencies to provide services for migrant students and families as they move across state lines. Specialized training programs are implemented to equip staff with the knowledge and skills necessary to support Pre-K and OSY migrant students, as well as to help non-MEP staff understand the unique challenges faced by these students
“Their professional development efforts have resulted in a more inclusive and supportive school culture that values diversity and celebrates the unique strengths of our migrant children,” Corral said.
Currently, the North Carolina Migrant Education Program (NCMEP) administers 31 LEA-based programs in 30 counties. In addition, NCMEP serves students in non-program counties through the efforts of five regional recruiters through collaborations with USDA Cooperative Extension.