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Area students place well in farmworker essay, art contest
Southwest Junior High School recently had students capture first, second, and third place in the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs’ (AFOP) Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Children Essay and Art Contest.
First-place winner Jacqueline Vargas, an eighth-grade student on campus, was flown to Washington, D.C. on Sept. 25, to receive her award at the AFOP National Conference. Her second year in a row winning first place for her artwork, Vargas received her award as well as a $300 prize.
Second place winner Lesly Zamudio, a seventh-grader, received $200 for her essay and Alexa Alvarez, an eighth-grader, received $100 for her third-place essay. Cash prizes awarded to winners are to be used for school related needs.
With this year’s theme being "Cultivating Brighter Futures," participants were judged on how well they expressed this along with their personal thoughts on the matter.
"The goal is to raise awareness of the discriminatory agricultural exemption in the current federal child labor law. As the law currently allows, children as young as 12 are legally allowed to work for an unlimited number of hours outside of school in our nation’s fields and orchards. Despite agriculture being consistently ranked the most dangerous occupation in America for children, there are an estimated 300,000-500,000 children working to harvest the fruits and vegetables that end up on our tables," stated AFOP.
"Burdened with balancing school and work responsibilities, experiencing health injuries related to pesticide exposure, musculoskeletal problems from working too hard while bones are still forming, and the prevalence of accidents with farm machinery, their futures are too frequently no different from their present."
SWJH principal Richard West shared that the winning entries are posted on AFOP’s website www.afop.org and can be found by clicking on the "Children in the Fields" tab and by clicking on "Enter our Contests." The entries will also be presented to members of Congress and printed on a calendar to appear in AFOP’s September issue of the Washington Newsline.
In other news on campus, West said that three migrant students who recently graduated from the school were selected to attend national academic camps over summer before starting at San Luis High School.
Dolores Pacheco and Martin Herrera attended the Close Up Program for New Americans in Washington, D.C. where they learned about how government operates. And Dara Brachi learned about space exploration while attending the U.S. Space Academy in Huntsville, Ala.
"SWJH students competed with other migrant students from across the state to win the coveted spots in the programs. Students were selected based on their essays, reference letters, academic standing, involvement in extracurricular activities, and community service," said West. "...Students returned to San Luis expressing wonderment for the world beyond their community, and a renewed interest in pursuing their academic goals."
The Arizona Migrant Education Program covered the cost of trips and the Gadsden Migrant Education Program facilitated application completion and travel arrangements.