2010-04-26 Holland Sentinel "Local program seeks volunteers to mentor migrant students"

Local program seeks volunteers to mentor migrant students
The Holland Sentinel

Holland, MI —

It’s a short ride between Arden DeVries Post’s home and the apartment of the children she mentors, David and Briana Trujillo. Yet they might as well be worlds apart.

Post and her husband, both retired, have a lakefront home with a long driveway and a two-stall garage. In contrast, David and Briana live in a small two bedroom apartment with their parents and two more sisters.

“It’s humbling, it really is,” Post said.

The Migrant Mentoring Program through the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance bridges the gap, helping Post understand her Hispanic neighbors and giving the young siblings help with homework and insight into a white-collar home.

The Trujillo’s parents, David and Reyna, work long hours during the growing season, often from sun up to sun down to give their children a new life.

“They never had a chance for the kind of job I had or you have or my husband had,” said Post, a retired professor. “And I think now they’re hoping their children can have these kinds of opportunity.”

Reaching out to the thousands of migrant workers in Ottawa County and their families is critical in such an agriculture-based area, LEDA program director Sarah Salguera said.

“It’s really the only program of its kind that we know about in the whole country,” she said.

And in 13 years the program has grown from six children to more than 70. Spring is one of the peak time when LEDA recruits mentors. People interested in volunteering should call LEDA at (616) 846-9074.

David, 8, and Briana, 10, meet with Post about once a week, either at her Park Township home or a restaurant.

On Monday, the youngsters greeted Post’s dog before sitting down at the kitchen table where baggies of multicolored Goldfish crackers were waiting.

Briana chewed quietly as David ate up the crackers and Post’s attention. He told her about his latest report card. About his 100 percent on the last spelling test. About how he’d like to take some crackers home.

Then they took out homework: Briana patiently solving math problems, and David tearing through math, vocabulary and reading worksheets.

Their meetings may seem ordinary, but after about a year of mentoring, Post says she’s already seeing a big difference.

“They are braver in meeting and associating with other adults,” she said. “It used to be they wanted me there with them with whatever they did. And I think their English is improving too — at least much more than my Spanish is improving.”

David and Briana love to look around the Post’s home, peering into cupboards and picking up interesting items. Briana is particularly intrigued by Post’s office above the garage, which is full of books and toys, like a miniature classroom.

Briana explains the appeal of having a mentor quite simply: “I get to do a lot of stuff I don’t do at home,” she said.