Olga Mendiola and her family have been migrating up north for years. While she accepts the life she has been dealt with, she does not want her four sons and daughter to experience the same. Mendiola often reminds them that an education is key to getting out of working in the fields.
“Every chance I get I talk to my children,” Mendiola said. “I talk to them about the importance of an education and why it’s so much better that they work with their minds rather than their backs. I tell them, ‘if they don’t want to live this kind of life or want this for their children, they need to break the cycle.’ They need to go to school and get an education.”
For now, Mendiola is preparing her family for their annual trek up north to pick crops. She said it saddens her that her children will not be back in time for the start of the school year but she cannot imagine leaving them behind.
“My older kids are not able to get the classes they want,” Mendiola said. “Once they’re in school, they’re always having to hurry up and catch up with the other children. They miss out on a lot like my son who plays for the Donna North Chiefs. He gets very upset. The only thing I can tell him is ‘I’m sorry.’ ”
Mendiola tries to make it up to her children by volunteering at their schools. “I do everything I can to help them,” she said. “I’ll go talk to their counselors and teachers. I’m there for them to help them catch up.”
Mendiola hopes that she can make life easier for her children and the many other DISD migrant students now that she is a member of the State Parent Advisory Council (PAC). She and 12 other people from across Texas were recently selected to sit on the council. The two-year term takes effect in the fall and runs through the end of the 2018-19 school year.
Mendiola found out about her appointment from the Region One Education Service Center. “I was nervous when I got the call,” she said. “I was thinking ‘is this for real.’ I was so excited. It’s such a big honor. I will do everything I can to advocate for our migrant children in our school district.”
The majority of the council members are parents of migrant children. Their role is to advise the Texas Education Agency in planning, implementing, and evaluating the state program design to meet the educational needs of migrant children. All recommendations made by the State PAC are forwarded to the State Director of the Migrant Education Program for consideration and appropriate action.
“I’m hoping I can bring ideas and get them implemented in our district,” Mendiola said. “For example, our migrant students need a special kind of calculator for the math portion of the SAT test. I would like to bring that idea to the table. I want our migrant children to have the same education as all the other students.”
While Mendiola wants the best for all students, her dream is to see her own children break the migrant cycle and graduate from high school and college. Her oldest just received his degree from Texas A&M University-Kingsville. “One of my goals in life is to see all my children succeed and get a better education than my husband and I had. I want to see five college degrees on my wall. My oldest just got his degree, so one down, four to go.”