National Farmworker Jobs Program Participant Highlights
Kirby Peterson, a low-income seasonal hired-hand laborer from Cheyenne-Eagle Butte Sioux Tribe met with the National Farmworker Jobs Program (NFJP)Case Worker to discuss post-secondary education options.Poverty has loomed over this reservation for generations. Repeated attempts to create jobs have run into challenging obstacles including the isolated location; the area’s crumbling infrastructure; and a workforce in desperate need of training to name a few. Kirby wanted better.
Kirby wanted to obtain the skills and training in a career field of interest that were necessary to provide him with a good paying job and benefits. Kirby’s primary source of income had been working in the cattle industry in Eagle Butte. Due to the low unemployment rate and high level of poverty in that area, his pre-program earnings at the time of enrollment were a mere $3,268. This qualified Kirby for NFJP.
Kirby’s career goal was to obtain training in the Radiologic Technology field of study, a high demand job in the state. The NFJP staff worked collaboratively with various agencies such as Native American funding sources, Low Income Energy Assistance and the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation’s workforce training program to assist Kirby in reaching his goal. Kirby successfully completed his Associate of Applied Science Radiologic Technology degree at Mitchel Technical Institute in Mitchell, South Dakota. He participated in an internship at the local hospital where he was able to obtain further training. Additionally, he participated in the National Radiology Technology Conference in Orlando, Florida. At the end of April of 2017, he had another opportunity to gain more skills and experience in his field of study when he attended the South Dakota Society of Radiologic Technologists (SDSRT) in Sioux Falls. Kirby is grateful for the opportunities and resources made available to him through NFJP to reach his goal. Kirby is employed full-time at the Cheyenne River Health Center. He is enjoying his new career and looking forward to this new journey in his life. Kirby went from living in poverty earning less than $6,000 per year to earning $46,969!
Jon was a low-income farm worker, native of Corsica, SD. Throughout high school, Jon worked at a farm where he would breed sows and administer shots to the newborn piglets earning $7.25/hour. He graduated from High School in May of 2015. In the fall of 2015, Jon started school at Mitchell Technical Institute with the career goal of obtaining a degree in wind turbine technology. When asked how he came about signing up for the National Farmworker Jobs Program (NFJP), he indicated he saw an informational flyer posted at the school and decided to look further into it. Jon called the number and the case manager visited with him and determined Jon was eligible for the program.
Jon knew once he entered college, he would be financially strapped and was uncertain how he would be able to pay bills and stay in school. Signing up for the NFJP program helped Jon financially and in turn,be successful in school. Jon stated,“it was a stress reliever and it helped me focus more on my school work and grades.”
NFJP provided Jon with financial support for gas, rent, groceries, and student stipends.This assistance was a significant contributing factor in helping Jon reach his goal, graduating with high honors. Jon is now currently working at MA Mortenson Company,a wind blade repair company, earning $20 per hour and working 10 to 12 hours a day.
Jon’s five year goal is to go back to school for his bachelor’s degree in sustainable management. He wishes to one day run his own construction business and possibly own his own hog farm as well.
Oscar Ferretiz is truly a success story. He was working for Rancho Jose in Foreman Arkansas making $250.00 dollars per week, feeding chickens and repairing fences. Oscar Ferretiz pick up a flyer from Cossatot Community College of the University of Arkansas that described the National Farmworker Jobs Program (NFJP) and thought he might be eligible. Oscar contacted Arkansas Human Development Corporation (AHDC’s) Office in Hope, Arkansas, where he met AHDC Employment Specialist Maria Ramirez. Oscar’s goal was to earn a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and become a Truck Driver. After completing his application and enrolling him into the NFJP and hearing about his goals, Maria Ramirez arranged for AHDC to pay for his tuition and fees for CDL training at Cossatot Community College of the University of Arkansas in Nashville, Arkansas. According to his needs assessment, he lacked transferrable work skills and was challenged by math. He started training August 7, 2017 and completed training August 31, 2017. On September 11, 2017 Oscar Ferretiz landed employment with Buster Roberts Logging, Inc.in Dierks Arkansas. Oscar began making $15.00 an hour with benefits and working at least 40 hour per week. He is earning significantly more than what he was earning on the farm. Oscar stated, “If it wasn’t for Arkansas Human Development Corporation, I would not have been able to provide a better life for my family. AHDC helped me succeed and was with me every step. Thanks to AHDC I accomplished a lifelong goal.”
Story from Jim Haugli, State Director of Florida’s Farmworker Career Development Program
Diego Brito enrolled in the Orange County Farmworker Career Development Program (FCDP) on January 12, 2015. He came from Mexico as a young boy and is the only sibling to graduate high school and to continue his education. Diego has four much older brothers and one younger than himself.
Diego contacted the FCDP office and made an appointment to come in. The office expedited his paperwork and he was approved for the program. Diego went home and shared the good news with his mother. She knew that not having Diego’s current salary would put a hardship on her family financially, but she saw the excitement in his eyes and told him, “If this is really what you want then do it…..do something better with your life son.”
Diego exhibits all the qualities of a great employee. He has a passion for learning and creating great works of welding art. He helps his peers and mentors new students. Throughout his tenure in class, he had the opportunity to build many projects. He chose to use this new found knowledge of welding and welding art sculpting at METAL MORPHISIS, a business located in Winter Garden, Florida.
Diego’s welding practice was real-world which made his daily practice in welding realistic and challenging. Diego welcomes constructive criticism when other students would become defensive. He felt it was a way to fine tune his knowledge and skills in welding fabrication. Diego often said, “You cannot go to the store and buy a bag of knowledge or experience. It has to be earned by practicing every day.”
After completing the welding program at Westside Tech, Diego started working at Metal Morphisis, LLC as a welder making $12.50 an hour. After 2 months his pay was raised to $14.00 an hour. This is very rare for a student fresh out of class (a greenhorn) to earn these frequent pay raises. Diego wants to continue working during the day and attend Seminole State College at night to earn his degree in Business Management. His dream is to open his own welding company someday.
His instructor said, “Diego is one of the many talented and structured students to attend my program at Westside Campus. His eagerness to learn and love for the trade of welding will make him successful and take him to new boundaries with great rewards.”
Diego said, “Every step of my welding career has been a personal achievement. If it wasn’t for programs like the Farmworkers Program I don’t know where I would be today. I’m living proof the program does work.”
Diego was chosen as the Florida Farmworker Career Development Program Participant of the Year. He was honored at the FCDP Annual Conference in August in Orlando.
Story from California Human Development
When Frances Ortiz-Chavéz was a teenager, she spent her summers picking California’s peaches and tomatoes. Today, she uses her hands for more delicate work, but the impact of her time spent in the fields remains—and speaks clearly—through the art she creates. ‘From the first day I walked into an all English-speaking classroom, I turned to art as a way to express my deepest feelings and a way to fit in,” says Ortiz-Chavéz.
Born in Mexico, Francisca (Frances) and her family immigrated to Arizona when she was 10 years old. She became “Frances” when her teacher declared that “Francisca“ was too difficult to say. But, despite language and cultural challenges, Frances did well in school. She graduated with her class but found few options in Arizona and decided to move to Napa to be with her sister. Little did she know her life was about to change course dramatically.
“It was 1973, I was living at my sister’s home on Soscol Avenue and I needed work badly,” says Frances. “Everyone kept telling me to just walk two houses down to Aurelio Hurtado’s office. So I did, and that was the beginning of great things for me!”
A leading activist for farmworker rights, Sr. Aurelio Hurtado is the co-founder of California Human Development (CHD), a non-profit dedicated to assisting farmworkers and others of low income. He arranged a full-time job for Frances at the Veterans Hospital In Yountville.
“CHD paid my salary for the first few months and that got me going,” says Frances. “I credit Aurelio and CHD for setting me on a powerful and positive course.”
From the Veterans Hospital, Frances went on work as a Bilingual Instructional Assistant and school secretary with Napa Valley School District—a job Aurelio also helped to arrange. In 2003, she was appointed to the school board of the Napa Valley Union School District and has run unopposed every term since. In 2007, she opened Puertas Abiertas Community Resource Center in Napa and served as center director for six years. Most recently, Frances helped co-found and is the current co-chair of the Napa Valley Latino Heritage Committee.
“Sr. Aurelio was a pioneer; he inspired me to bring the Latino voice to the forefront and to work for social justice in our schools and our community. I’m proud to be able to follow in his footsteps,” she says.
Frances also never gave up her art; she continues to create beautiful and powerful work depicting the Latino experience.