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Graduating senior in MSU's homecoming court: "Farmworkers are here to stay and to finish school"

Leeslie Herrera is Latina woman with dark brown hair. She's smiling and is wearing a black jacket and black shirt. She is wearing clear glasses and red lipstick.
Michigan State University Communications
Leeslie Herrera is one of eleven students selected to be part of this year’s MSU homecoming court. She’s from South Texas and Mexico and grew up harvesting crops across the country.

Leeslie Herrera is celebrating two big milestones this year. Not only is she graduating early, she’s also one of eleven Michigan State University students who have been selected to be a part of the university’s homecoming court.

This year's homecoming court theme is "Spartans Bring the Magic." For Herrera, that means highlighting the magic farmworkers do and showing that higher education isn’t out of reach.

“Being able to represent that community. And like, letting students know that ... we're out here, we can do this, like I'm about to graduate. So can they.”

A study by the San Joaquin Agricultural Law Reviewfinds children of migrant workers are far less likely to graduate from high school and college due to factors like constantly having to move.

Herrera, who is graduating with a degree in criminal justice and Latino/Chicano studies, says its not easy for students like her to be successful in college.

"There's some people who have to even support their parents in like different ways." she said. "Their parents probably have been working in the fields, like all their lives, and they got injured or they can no longer be in a physical demanding job as that one. So they [students] have to drop out from school," she said.

According to April 2022 data from the United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service, the average hourly wage for farmworkers in the field was $16.50 an hour.

"So I personally worked in the fields because I'm the second oldest of six, and this was a really good financial help to my parents, for us to like, get this money and buy our school clothes, school supplies and stuff like that," she said.

Herrera is an MSU College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) scholar. CAMP is an educational program offering individuals with migrant or seasonal farm work backgrounds a unique opportunity to begin an undergraduate program at MSU.

This last summer was Herrera's last season working in the fields alongside her family. She says after graduating she plans on continuing to a master's program in criminal justice. She's hoping to eventually get a doctoral degree.

"Farmworkers are here. Farm workers are here to stay and to finish school," Herrera said.

Children of migrant farm workers represent more than 300 students at MSU.

As WKAR's Bilingual Latinx Stories Reporter, Michelle reports in both English and Spanish on stories affecting Michigan's Latinx community.
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