Nyssa’s Prado helping to restore trust in district’s migrant program

A Nyssa staffer with the district’s beleaguered migrant education program is working to help rebuild the community’s trust in the program.

Jesus Prado, a graduation specialist with Nyssa’s migrant education program, caught the attention of state education officials during a recent monitoring visit to review the program, which is designed to help migrant families educate their children despite having to relocate continuously to work in agriculture. 

In an April 30 report, officials wrote that Prado, 42, had been instrumental in helping migrant students and made them feel “heard and valued.”

The migrant program has been operating under tight state oversight since 2022. Key elements of the program, such as recruitment, were taken from the district to be handled by the state’s migrant education program after 129 families with 277 children were found to be improperly enrolled.

Prado moved to Nyssa five years ago with his wife and four kids. He was hired at the school district as a custodian and later applied in 2020 to become a graduation specialist. 

Prado is the son of migrant parents, traveling along the West Coast with his parents, working in strawberry fields.

He said he arrived at the Nyssa district “in the middle” of the scandal over migrant education and subsequent community backlash. Those the state considered in part responsible for program lapses no longer work with the migrant program in Nyssa. According to the Oregon Department of Education Migrant Program Directors Handbook, to qualify, a family must have moved within the past three years, and the parents must be temporary or seasonal workers in agriculture. Prado added that it’s those families that work in agriculture or fisheries that must move for work to survive.

Prado knows the challenges migrant families face as they move several times during a school year to follow the crops.

He said his parents – not unlike some of the families in Nyssa’s migrant program – lacked a formal education and did not know how to navigate the education system for their kids. 

“My dad and my mom didn’t know how GPAs and credits worked,” he said. “A lot of the parents who are working in the fields didn’t go to school.” 

As a graduation specialist, this is where Prado comes in. He said he monitors how students are faring in their classes and communicates with teachers, principals and, most importantly, parents so that they and the students understand what it takes to graduate.

This year, Prado said, every Nyssa senior from a migrant family graduated.  He said it’s unclear how this year’s graduation rate compares to the previous year. 

Prado said his background as the son of migrant parents has helped him earn the trust of families and students. 

Prado earned a general education diploma from Treasure Valley Community College not long after he and his family moved to Nyssa. He said the work he and others do gives him the chance to give students the opportunities he did not have. 

For instance, he said when he was student, he served as the translator for his Spanish-speaking parents. He said that he could only translate that which he understood and sometimes he would “explain it wrong.”

Some of what teachers, principals and counselors assumed was being communicated literally was lost in translation. 

Now, he said, “the students and the parents have me. That’s what pushes me. This is a great program.” 

He said migrant families in the community work hard and face challenges every day. 

“Our families are working in the fields,” he said. “And they are struggling and sacrificing to give their kids a better future.”

Jesus Prado, a Nyssa graduation specialist for the district’s migrant program, was named the district’s employee of the month in April for his work with migrant students. (The Enterprise/PAT CALDWELL)

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