In the heart of the Rio Grande Valley, just miles from the Mexican border, in the small town of Weslaco, Texas, something wonderful is happening.
Inside the bright and welcoming Francisco Flores Center, dozens of young children of migrant workers are getting the foundation they need to succeed in school.
The program here is run by Teaching and Mentoring Communities (TMC), a migrant head start provider that works across six states and serves more than 6,400 children.
Migrant parents’ work cycles with the crops. Right now, as the harvest of citrus and celery, onions and jalapenos, cantaloupes and cotton all draw to a close in south Texas, so does the migrant Head Start program. By May, the winter program here will end. As tomatoes and cucumbers start to ripen in Indiana and Ohio, the summer migrant Head Start program will begin there. Some of the same teachers move with the program.
It’s not easy to plan an educational program around a mobile population, but TMC has been doing it for 40 years. One of 26 agencies that provide services to the children of migrant farm workers, it is one of the largest.
In Weslaco, two contemporary buildings house a cadre of committed, energetic adults who are leading groups of even more energetic children as they read, sing and learn together. It was a particular thrill for me to visit the infant and toddler building and hold some of the beautiful babies. (I know my hosts were starting to wonder if I was ever going to come out of that room!)
These children are in such critical years – most of their brain development is happening right now, before they turn 5. Quality Head Start programs like these are a key part of fulfilling ACF’s mission to make sure children are safe and healthy and have the best shot possible at future economic security.
Congratulations, TMC, on your 40th anniversary, and thank you for your tireless work on behalf of these beautiful children.