By Yazmin Tellez
Veronica Fonseca quit FSW two years ago when she lost her financial aid. Today she is a scholarship student about to complete her Associates of Science degree.
Her life, and her college career, changed when she went to work in a preschool.
After leaving college in 2016, Fonseca took a job she loved as a caregiver at a school run by Redlands Christian Migrant Association in Immokalee. RCMA then offered her a scholarship if she would return to FSW and study education.
“The RCMA scholarship is opened up for those of us seeking for a teaching career,” said Fonseca. “After I receive my Associates degree I will be eligible to continue with the scholarship, giving me the opportunity to get my bachelor’s degree, without having to worry about tuition fees.”
The Redlands Christian Migrant Association (RCMA) is a non-profit organization that supports migrant workers and other low-income people. It serves low income families with safety nets and support. It offers quality childcare and education from crib to high school and beyond.
RCMA operates in 21 counties. It is Florida’s largest childcare provider and also provides public awareness of the lifestyle of migrant and seasonal farm workers and the rural poor.
“Most families that enroll their children at RCMA don’t have to pay for anything, and enrollments open up every month,” said Fonseca. “When all the spots are taken, the children are put on a waiting list until they have an open space to get them enrolled. “
Fonseca is one of approximately 37,000 RCMA employees who have received a scholarship since 1998 according to the nonprofit’s website, allowing her to pay for her college tuition and complete her studies.
“After my first year of college I stopped receiving help from financial aid, which lead me to discontinue school for a whole year” said Fonseca. “However, working at RCMA opened the opportunity for me to keep going to FSW, complete my Associates degree and further my education.”
A 26-year-old FSW alumna, Paula Rios, has also worked as a caregiver at RCMA for the past four years.
“RCMA has helped me out in many ways because it is a learning experience, and not to leave out that I benefit from the TEACH scholarship also,” said Rios. “Thanks to the scholarship I was able to complete school and graduate with an Associate of Arts degree.
The RCMA Migrant Center focuses on providing access to opportunities for farmworker children. Most migrant farmworker families return to Immokalee in November after harvest seasons are over up north.
About 1,700 children are in Migrant and Seasonal Head Start. The program provides childcare, health care and social services for low income-migrant families.
RCMA enrolls them in charter and preschool then, even though they would be behind in many public schools. The Migrant Center is only open for six months. As migrant families leave Immokalee, the Migrant Center closes.
Flory Arreaga has taught at the Migrant Center for three seasons.
“Working with the migrant center allows me to help out so many families in need” Arrega said. “They are always there for the families when they need a hand. This job has helped me learn about children and their different backgrounds. I love working with these children.”
So does Fonseca.
“Working at RCMA is such a blessing,” said Fonseca. “It gives me the opportunity to work for something I am passionate about. I am grateful for the safety nets and support that the organization has given me. Thanks to RCMA I am able to make a difference in my community and it’s giving me a chance to pursue my career.”