The Center for Migrant Education in the College of Education was established in 1968 under the leadership of Dr. Robert Dwyer, a professor in the Special Education Department, who worked with children of migrant farm workers. Ann Cranston-Gringas came to the College of Education in the mid-1980s as a doctoral graduate assistant in the Special Education Department and began working with Dr. Dwyer in the education of children of migrant farm workers during a summer program. In 1987, she learned of a federal grant competition that would extend the migrant education program from a summer program to a year-round program. With the assistance of other faculty, she wrote a grant proposal and was successful in gaining funding for the extended program and served as coordinator of the USF Migrant Education Grant Program. Upon earning her doctorate in 1990, Dr. Cranston-Gringas became a faculty member in the Special Education Department and became the director of the Center for Migrant Education.
The program is designed to help children of migrant farm workers who had dropped out of school to earn their high school diplomas and help them transition into post secondary education. With 19 years of continuous federal funding, the program has served approximately 1,500 students and continues to prosper. A second federally funded project, the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), helps migrant students during their first year of college and has successfully served 150 students during the past six years.
In addition, over 1,200 students from migrant and seasonal farm workers families have participated in a High School Equivalency Program (HEP) funded through the US Department of Education’s Office of Migrant Education, which provides an opportunity for students to earn a high school degree through an examination.
The need for seeking private funding grew out of a desire to find funding for foods to be served at the graduation celebrations for students in the migrant education programs and their families. Since federal funding does not allow expenditures for food, Dr. Cranston-Gringas worked with Sue Backus, the College of Education’s Development Officer, to send out letters to the Pacific Tomato Growers Association and the Florida Strawberry Growers Association. Not only did they receive positive responses for their funding requests for the food for graduation celebrations, but over time their support was sufficient to award the Florida Tomato Exchange and Sunripe Scholarships for the children of migrant farm workers. The Wishnatzki Family Tennis Tournament and their annual on-campus sale of strawberries, also provides funding for the Graduate Education Fellowships in Migrant Education.
To date, thirty-five students of migrant farm worker parents have received scholarships and support for their educational endeavors to become teachers. The program also serves as a demonstration and training site for College of Education students who are enrolled in English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes.
The Center for Migrant Education, which now employs six faculty and staff members, also conducts research, publishes journal articles, and presents at state and national conferences on educational issues affecting students from migrant farm workers families.