Polk County students earn scholarships by sharing immigration stories

Two Polk County students from the migrant community earned college scholarships by sharing their stories.

Fort Meade High School students Agustin Lozano and Michelle Leon-Garcia not only found the courage to talk about their challenging journeys, but traveled to Texas to do so. 

They addressed more than a thousand strangers for a chance at winning a scholarship at the National Migrant Education Conference in San Antonio.

The conference is geared toward helping students in the migrant farming communities.

"I wanted them to understand where I was coming from, how I grew up and the reason I am how I am," said Leon-Garcia. 

"Just seeing everybody there, the audience, it was life changing," said Lozano.

The students have had support along the way from Polk County's Migrant Education Program.

"Our students may be enrolled late in school, maybe their parents are still working in Michigan or Ohio or Washington state and so they enroll late October, November sometimes December. We speak to their teachers, we check their grades, attendance. We work with teachers here at the local schools," said Meylin Nickerson, an interventionist teacher with the program.

It's helped them academically.

"I'm an early graduate and I'm graduating with a 4.1 GPA," said Leon-Garcia.

It's also given them the confidence to share their powerful stories, which earned each of them a $5,000 scholarship.

"I'm very proud of them and it's a very unique situation because not only were two students chosen from this area but two students were chosen from this school, very small school," said Nickerson. 

"It's going to pay a good amount of what I need," said Lozano.

"It will help pay for what they will be owing that their scholarships don't cover," said Leon-Garcia. 

They want to create a brighter future for themselves and the migrant community. 

"I'm going to become an immigration lawyer. I chose it specifically to help people out like my mother. To help them become a citizen, naturalized here in the United States," said Leon-Garcia.

"The degree I'm pursuing is a degree of finance. For one change my family's situation with money so we don't have to struggle anymore and I want to break the cycle of poverty one family at a time and to one day hopefully give back a scholarship to a person like me," said Lozano.

For more information about Polk County's Migrant Education Program, visit https://polkschoolsfl.com/wp-content/uploads/mainsite/MigrantStudentsOverview.pdf