Daughter of migrant farm workers forges different trail

Moscow-Pullman Daily NewsMay 10, 2014 

Rosalinda Godinez

— Washington State University senior Rosalinda Godinez, 23, remembers when her parents brought her out to the fields in southern Washington when she was a young girl.

Her parents immigrated to America from Mexico and made a living as farmworkers. At the time, Godinez was too young to do much work, but there was an important reason why her parents wanted her out there — they wanted her to see what her future could hold if she didn’t pursue an education.

"They would tell me, ’Rosie, is this the life that you want?’ " Godinez said.

Godinez, a Grandview, Wash., native, went to high school in a community that was mostly Mexican. At her high school, 80 percent of students graduated, but only 30 percent went on to college.

She could have easily been part of the majority, but Godinez held a strong personal desire to get a degree.

Teachers along with her parents also encouraged Godinez to attend college, and thanks to a scholarship from the College Success Foundation, she made it to Pullman. Her first year wasn’t easy.

She was in a totally different world than the one she left in Grandview. College life was foreign to her, and it affected her academics. She still remembers getting a D on her first college paper.

"I wasn’t prepared at all," she said.

But she credits the support at WSU for helping her get on track.

She was part of the WSU College Assistance Migrant Program, a federally funded program designed to provide academic and financial support to students from migrant and seasonal farmworker backgrounds during their freshman year in college. She took classes that helped students understand the culture of higher education classrooms and attended tutoring sessions.

Her grades got better, but unfortunately she had to face more adversity. And this time, it wasn’t related to academics.

Godinez’s father was diagnosed with leukemia three years ago. Since then he’s gone through 13 cycles of chemotherapy and was told by doctors at one point that he wasn’t going to live.

Godinez spent those years helping her Spanish-speaking father communicate with doctors, and helped take care of him after he went to Oklahoma for surgery. He made it through both surgery and chemo and, Godinez said, will no doubt be proud to see his daughter get her degree. So will her mother.

"I know for them, this is meaningful," she said.

After today, Godinez will move on to bigger plans, as she will pursue a doctorate in education at University of California-Berkeley. There she hopes to continue the research she began at WSU.

In 2013, she won the highest award a student can achieve in a universitywide event that showcases student research. Godinez, a sociology major, presented her research on the relationship between parental involvement in the lives of underrepresented college and high school students.

She will continue her research during the summer as a McNair Scholar, a program meant to prepare first-generation college students for doctoral studies.

Godinez became interested in this topic because of the role her parents played in her education. She said, like her parents, there are many other farmworkers who use their work as a tool to motivate their children to get an education.

This is not what we as a society consider conventional parental involvement, she said, and it is a subject that should be explored further. Godinez said she wants to help parents like hers better prepare their children for an education.

Godinez is thankful not only for her parents, but to her mentors and "the really large support system" at WSU for assisting her throughout her college career. Now, it seems, she is another step closer to the life she wants.

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