RUSKIN — For the children of migrant workers, the idea of going to college is often more of an abstract concept than a reality.
To take some of the mystique out of the college experience, Hillsborough Community College SouthShore has partnered with Redlands Christian Migrant Association’s Wimauma Academy to get younger students on the college campus.
“A lot of these students will be the first generation in their family to go to college,” said Kim French, community relations and marking manager for HCC. “It’s important to get them physically on the campus and in a classroom, seeing what it’s like to learn from a teacher.”
The RCMA Leadership Academy’s eighth-graders visited the school Oct. 8 and seventh-graders stopped by on Oct. 22. Each hour-long visit saw the middle-schoolers splitting their time between the college’s EMT classroom and chemistry lab.
“I really liked the size of their chemistry classroom,” said seventh-grader Marine Pecina, noting that the students’ workspace at HCC is as big as her teacher’s desk at the Leadership Academy.
“This is amazing for the kids,” said Ileana De Jesus, science teacher at the RCMA Leadership Academy. “They’re getting hands-on experience with instruments and concepts that they’ve only heard me talk about or have only seen in pictures.”
“I liked the way the teachers explained CPR and the right way to treat people when they’re hurt,” said Alexis Ortiz, a seventh-grader at the Leadership Academy.
French said this isn’t the first time HCC has worked with the RCMA, which provides child care and early education to the children of migrant farm workers and rural, low-income families across the state.
“We’ve had a great partnership since this campus opened five years ago,” she said. “We’ve had their kindergartners out during the holidays, but this is our first time working with the Leadership Academy.”
The next field trips are scheduled for February, and French said the partnership could result in HCC students paying a visit to the RCMA Wimauma Academy sometime in the future.
“The goal is to get the kids in the Leadership Academy engaged and thinking about college,” French said.