Whereas the entire Mini-Corps program in California is arguably praiseworthy, the one getting recognition was this one at Cal State Fresno led by Mini-Corps coordinators Lilly Lomeli and Jose Mejia. Specifically, they were recently recognized by the White House as one of the 2015 "Bright Spots in Hispanic Education" initiative. The proposal itself was written by Dr. Alice Ginsberg, Assistant Director for Research, Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions at the University of Pennsylvania. Bright Spots in Hispanic Education identifies and highlights "asset-based, solution-oriented innovations that are helping close the achievement gap for Latinos."
The Mini-Corps teachers get a minimum of 3,000 hours of field experiences before they enter the classroom and they get taught an advanced teacher preparatory curriculum that additionally prepares them well for graduate school should they decide to take their education further. Home visits to migrant worker families' homes are a regular feature of this program. The teachers themselves emanate from migrant worker households.
In existence since 1967, this program has deep roots in the Central Valley and in the state of California, generally, considering that there are 22 program sites. The coordinators themselves are products of this program. University professors, researchers, and state leadership has grown out of this program. Such a beautiful story all of this. Everybody's eyes light up when they talk about it and the varied, multiple, and exponential ways that it has contributed to the well being of so many Mexican-origin, children, families, and communities, lifting them up out of poverty and uncertain futures.
With such great programs like these, we do not need to outsource teacher preparation to the for-profit sector. We need programs like these that are grounded in our communities and that grow our own teachers. Children need to see teachers that look like them in their classrooms, who share their experiences, languages, and community-based identities. This is one such program that is making a difference in the world. Their hard-earned, mostly under-recognized, and under-funded efforts have nevertheless harvested—and promise to continue harvesting—an abundant, life-giving future to "the least of these."
Mini-Corps is a statewide program that was founded in 1967 and is designed to provide instructional services to migrant students in grades K-12 with the help of trained college students.
Mini-Corps coordinators Lilly Lomeli and Jose Mejia were both ecstatic when they heard the news.
“I wanted to scream,” said Lomeli when she found out the program received White House recognition.
“We’re really happy that we got that recognition,” Mejia said. “It just shows the amount of work students do, the impact that they have and what the program has become.”
The online report, “Bright Spots in Hispanic Education Fulfilling America’s Future,” was released on Sept. 15 by the White House. The goal of the report is to highlight the efforts that programs, models, organizations and initiatives have done across the county to help support Latino education and excellence. More than 230 programs were featured on the report.
“It’s a small program, but it has a big impact,” Lomeli said.
The University of Pennsylvania nominated Fresno State’s Mini-Corps Program for the White House honors.
“We work closely with some professors there and that’s how we got connected with them,” Lomeli said.
“We got a grant through the University of Pennsylvania. So they came and they interviewed our students, interviewed us and they recognized this was a good program, especially for future teachers.”
Mejia said the University of Pennsylvania recorded Fresno State’s Mini-Corps Program information, wrote it all up and then submitted it.
“They felt that it was a great program, and that it should be recognized,” he said. “I think they saw the process students go through and the support they get here. The end result is not only positive but very high in terms of our students graduating and actually acquiring their teaching credentials.”