As crops die so does the work. For migrant farmworkers, that means packing up and moving. This year’s drought will force another unexpected move for hundreds of families. Those who suffer the most, are their children and their education.
“I feel kind of sad because I leave some friends back,” said Diego Alvarado. The 13-year-old and his two brothers know the struggle. Right now, their father works at a Lodi grape field.
Before this job, there was a road of sacrifice and sorrow. The family has moved seven times in four years, from Texas to Washington.
For Diego’s parents, it is about following the work and providing a better life.
“Pero mis hijos eran mi major orgullo (My children are my pride),” Diego’s mother, Ana-Maria, said.
For Diego, it means playing catch-up in school and starting over.
“New teachers, new students, new friends. That is the worst part. Getting new friends,” Diego said.
The California Department of Education says there are 125,000 students in the state like Diego.
At one migrant learning center in Lodi, 90% of the kids will move because of the drought. Across the Central Valley, dry fields will force at least 250 families to find a new home. It is a problem California sees all too often.
While the state offers extra school assistance for migrant students, their education suffers.
Program officials say most of the children are behind in reading and English language studies.
Still California does what it can, providing students with a unique learning plan, one that goes with them from school to school.
“It is not an easy task, but that is where our effort is. To minimize the impact when students move from district to district or across the state,” Fernando Rodriguez-Valls, State Administrator for the migrant education programs, told FOX40.
The state says the programs are successful.
About 450 California college students, who were once a part of the migrant programs or lived a migrant lifestyle, are recruited annually to tutor students in the migrant programs.
It is a job they take so they can help the children see beyond the fields and aim for a college education.
While the programs help, for Ana-Maria, just getting her kids to class is a struggle.She has no car. She makes the 30-minute walk to her children’s school and back each day.
It is a sacrifice that is worth giving her children the education she never got.
Ana-Maria and her husband avoid talking about the drought and what it could mean for their family.
The possibility of leaving their stable Lodi home worries them.
“Quando me sienta muy caida siempre mis hijos me levantan y me dicen yo estoy con tigo. Es por ellos que luchamos hasta el fin (When I am feeling down my kids lift me up and say we are with you. It is for them the we will fight to the end),” Ana-Maria said.
A fight she hopes will make Lodi their final home so Alonso, Rogelio and Diego can chase their dreams.
“I just feel proud of them. I love them,” said Diego.