Burcham Elementary School Parent Maria Holguin has won a top national honor for seasonal or migrant farmworkers. She was recognized for being a model student as she earned her high school equivalency diploma through a program offered in partnership with Cal State Long Beach.
Holguin received the award in Sacramento last week during a conference of the National HEP/CAMP Association. She is the only person in the nation to receive this year’s award. The association includes universities, colleges and nonprofits that administer a High School Equivalency Program or College Assistance Migrant Program.
“Teachers transform lives and these lives, in turn, transform nations,” Holguin said in Spanish as she accepted the honor. “Continue transforming other people’s lives like you transformed mine.”
One day while helping one of her two daughters with her math homework, Holguin became frustrated because she was unable to understand the material. That’s when she decided to go back to school.
"I want to make sure my children get a good education,” Holguin said. “I don't care if I can't drive. I don't care if I don't even have a car to take them to school. I need to do it because a good education is the only inheritance I can give my daughters.”
She became involved in the Long Beach Unified School District’s Migrant Education Program, leading her to pursue the equivalency program at the university, where LBUSD Senior Interpreter Oscar Herrera taught the HEP diploma test prep class last school year.
“I had the pleasure to have Mrs. Holguin as a student,” Herrera wrote in the award nomination. “She knows the meaning of hard work. As a migrant worker, she picked strawberries in the agricultural fields of Oxnard, California. Having migrated from Mexico in 2005, she was forced to put on hold her dream of continuing her education due to her work and family obligations.”
In the high school equivalency prep class, “from day one, Ms. Holguin showed a spirit of commitment to the class requirements and demands. Her dedication to her education is unparalleled,” Herrera said. “She never missed class and was always punctual with her homework assignment completed. She was a very active participant in class, contributing with thought-provoking discussions. She was inspiring to her classmates, who looked up to her for guidance to study outside the class schedule.”
Holguin is a parent volunteer at her daughters’ school and is actively involved in various parent advisory groups in the local community. After receiving her high school equivalency diploma in May, she continued her education by enrolling in coursework at Long Beach City College.