Things That Matter

We Are Loving The Respect And Credit These Grads Are Giving Their Farm Working Parents For Their Sacrifices To Give Their Kids The World

Graduation ceremonies are a little slice of life and society. Behind every cap and stole there are stories of heroism and struggle not only involving the graduates but often having to do with their parents. Moms and dads all over the world have done their best to see their children enjoy better opportunities in life. As the value of labor has shifted from privileging manual work and trades to giving more to those who work with information, traditional occupations such as farming have been affected by a decline in wages and by the crushing shadow of big companies (nowadays it is very hard for any farmer to subsist on their own). That is why stories that involve farmer parents seeing their kids graduate from university are so inspiring. If you have worked in the fields as a picker or even if you have done some gardening under the blistering sun you know how much of a toll working in a field can take on your body. If you haven’t, look to a father’s or uncle’s or Abuelo’s hands and focus on the callous surface that endless hours of working with la tierra has done to the skin. Every wrinkle tells a story of survival and proud trabajo

In honor of farmers worldwide, and to celebrate Farm Workers Day, we have chosen some inspirational snippets of life featuring graduates and their farmer parents, who worked with their hands so their offspring’s mind could thrive. There are not enough ways to say gracias, are there? 

This graduate who honors her farmer parents

Credit: Twitter. @UCMerced

Merced Anna Ocegueda is a Latina college senior who graduated from University of California, Merced, earlier this year. This 22-year-old psychology major posted this picture on Twitter. As they say, una imagen dice + que mil palabras. Her parents are still wearing their picking equipment. Her post went viral and soon newspapers started knocking in the door. Ocegueda told The Fresno Bee: “My parents came here for a better future and a better life for their children. “The educational opportunities weren’t great. My parents encouraged me to better my education so I wouldn’t have to work in the fields like them.” 

For Selena Huapilla-Perez graduation she dressed up in her cap and gown and posed in the fruit fields alongside her parents to honor their sacrifice as farmers. ⁣

@SelenaHuapilla

In a post about her gruadtion, Huapilla said “I always tell my parents, my sisters and brother that this belongs more to them than to me.” This year she graduated with a degree in Interdisciplinary Humanities from Michigan State University. ⁣

This recent grad went above and beyond to make her dreams come true, thanks to her hard work, and her parent’s struggles.

@alfaroerica47b | Instagram

Erica Alfaro, a 29-year-old, dedicated her master’s degree with her parents and celebrated with a powerful photoshoot where they work.

This Brazilian queen who thanked her farmer parents during her graduation ceremony

Credit: YouTube. @AlamedaCasaEditorial

It is a moment worthy of a few tears. A Brazilian student stops the party, descends the stairs and calls her parents. Everyone claps. They all know that her family is de origen humilde and that they have moved Heaven and Earth for her to be there. You can watch this tender and empowering moment here

Farmer parents sure teach some good ethics and excellent saving skills

Credit: Twitter. @KillerPunchZero

If precarious conditions can teach you anything is that you gotta take care of what you got. Farming is such a serendipitous occupation (a flood or a tornado can wipe out the years harvest and any earnings for the coming months, as many farmers have recently experienced throughout our climate-change-stricken planet), that those que trabajan en el campo know that life is better with no debt. What a great lesson. Hard work, dedication. 

De tal palo tal astilla

Credit: Twitter. @BigDuce79

So who is proud of who? The farmer father who sent his son to college or the son whose father sent him? Well, it is both. Struggle can either bring people closer together or split them apart. We hope it is always the latter. 

Can you spare a minute and read this amazing story?

Credit: Facebook. Humans of Bombay

India is a country where social mobility is almost impossible. Many regions of the Southeast Asian country still live under a caste system that basically translates in zero opportunities for those who are born with nothing or with very little. That is why this story from the amazing storytelling collective Humans of Bombay is so powerful. It is the story of a father who had to migrate to the city from his farming village. There, he leads a simple life but makes sure his son goes to university. The son’s attitude will melt your heart. Does the story sound familiar? We are sure it resonates with many Latino families across the United States. 

The son of a Filipino farmer who got a full scholarship at Harvard

Credit: filipino-farmer-son-gets-full-scholarship-from-harvard-university-proves-hard-work-beats-fate-2.jpg. Digital image. The Development Times

The Philippines is one of the most unequal countries in the world, an impoverished nation that up until today has failed to keep up with other Asian economies. As much as 15% of Filipinos work overseas as domestic workers or construction workers. Those who live in the country need to work extra hard just to make ends meet. So the story of Romnick Blanco, the son of a rice and vegetable farmer, is the stuff that dreams are made of. He received a full scholarship to study at Harvard after excelling at his high school in Manila. By the way, he had to cross a river every single day to go to school

Credit: q2-5. Digital image. Readers Portal.

His father was a cocoa farmer and his mother sold coal, he is now a graduate from the University of Pennsylvania

 
Credit: IMG_20180419_173741. Digital image. Savannah News Online

Conditions for farmers in Africa are tough, as multinational corporations pay low wages for prices products such as cocoa.  Shadrack Osei Frimpong is a Ghanian dynamo who excelled at school and made his way to the United States. He is now giving back to his community, establishing a tuition-free girls’ school in his village. What an inspiring young man. Those who succeed despite a tough beginning are often the most generous and amazing human beings. African youth face many challenges, including guerrilla warfare, human trafficking and disease, so it is amazing to see ow someone from a rural area could actually work towards better conditions not only for himself, but for his whole community. 

Last but not least, this Indonesian son of farmers who graduated from Columbia University in New York City

Credit: 10.-Graduation-S2-1. Digital Image. Mengglobal Indonesia

Robinson Sinurat is the fifth child of a family of seven. His parents did not finish their schooling because of financial struggles, so the odds were stacked against Robinson. He knew that he wanted to study physics, so he borrowed money from a friend to pay for university fees in Indonesia and ate only once a day. After graduating from college he worked in an NGO in the capital city of Jakarta, where he started studying English to apply for graduate school. His academic and professional accomplishments caught the eye of Columbia… and the rest, as they say, is history. You can read all about his improbable journey here.

This hombre hermoso from Thailand whose dirty clothes speak of a tough life

Credit: Facebook. @Chesney O’Donnell

The contrast is striking. This Thai farmer almost looks shy in front of the camera. The moraleja is clear: be very, very thankful for everything that your parents have done for you. 

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California Sets Vaccination Plan For Agricultural Workers During Next Phase

Things That Matter

California Sets Vaccination Plan For Agricultural Workers During Next Phase

Brent Stirton / Getty Images

The world is racing to vaccinate everyone to put a stop to the relentless Covid-19 pandemic. In the U.S., states and counties are rolling out their own plans based on suggestions from health experts. California, home to the largest population of farmworkers, is making them a priority.

California has laid out their vaccination plan and farmworkers are being prioritized.

California is facing a relentless Covid-19 surge of infections, deaths, and hospitalizations. According to The New York Times, California has the second-highest level of infections per capita in the U.S. More than 30,000 people have died of Covid in California and the vaccination effort has been severely lagging.

California’s vaccination plan has been criticized for its very slow roll out.

According to the California Department of Public Health, more than 816,000 doses of the virus have been given to residents. There have been more than 2 million vaccine doses shipped to California. Currently, California, the most populated state in the country, is still in Phase 1A. Phase 1A is for healthcare workers and long-term care residents. The Vaccinate All 58 campaign claims that there are 3 million people in California in Phase 1A. Almost 40 million people live in California.

Activists have been calling on Governor Gavin Newsom to make sure that farmworkers are prioritized.

California is home to the largest concentration of farmworkers in the U.S. The Center for Farmworker Families claims that 500,000 to 800,000 farmworkers, or about 1/3 to 1/2 of the farmworker populations, live in California. Seventy-five percent of farmworkers in California are undocumented.

As the rest of the state was able to shelter in place, farmworkers did not stop working. They provided a necessary lifeline to the nation in keeping the food supply running. Farmworkers are more likely to contract Covid because of their living conditions. Studies show that the low wages that farmworkers are paid means that many live in crowded conditions.

READ: As The U.S. Rolls Out The COVID-19 Vaccine, What’s The Future Of Vaccine Access In Latin America?

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A Florida Teen Has Overcome Immense Obstacles, Including Homelessness, To Become His School’s Valedictorian

Things That Matter

A Florida Teen Has Overcome Immense Obstacles, Including Homelessness, To Become His School’s Valedictorian

Martin Folsom / Facebook

Right now we are in the midst of so much change. There is so much going on in the world – from a global pandemic that has left millions of us in social isolation to a brand new social justice movement in the wake of murder of unarmed Black men.

We’re being bombarded with so much serious news, it’s hard to remember that there are still people out there leading powerful, incredible lives and making a difference.

One Florida teen has overcome all the odds, including years of homeless, to graduate from his high school as valedictorian and we need to celebrate and recognize this huge accomplishment.

Martin Folsom graduated at the top of his class after struggling through years of homelessness.

Since he was a child, Martin Folsom and his mother Melva have been in and out of homelessness, according to Jacksonville television station WJXT.

Despite all the challenges he faced through the years, Folsom managed to keep his focus on his studies — and his efforts paid off when he was named his class’ valedictorian and graduated from Philip Randolph Career Academy in Jacksonville, FL.

“It kind of gave me a jolt in my chest a little bit, so it was a good feeling,” Folsom said in a video interview shared by KTRK. “It means a lot and it gives me a sense of all I’ve done and all I have accomplished was worth it.”

After college – Martin plans to attend Valdosta State University – he hopes to one day work for the FBI.

Martin credits his mom’s dedication and compassion for helping him succeed.

During his time in high school, Martin’s mom recalled desperately searching for a place to live with her son.

“Martin and I were in downtown McDonald’s and literally had nowhere to go,” she shared with WJXT. “I was on the phone calling people, calling organizations, and by the grace of God, we got into a shelter that day.”

Even with an uncertain living situation, Martin didn’t let that affect his studies.

“I never thought to myself, ‘I can’t do this anymore’ or ‘I’m done with this,'” explained the teen, who served as class president from freshman year through senior year. “It’s always been, ‘Well, it happened again and I’ve gotta keep myself up and keep moving forward.'”

He was set to walk across the stage last week for graduation, but that was canceled due to the pandemic.

Still, he isn’t letting that damper his spirits — especially since Martin had to overcome hurdle after hurdle to earn the high honor. He and his mom have struggled with homelessness since he was a kid, and throughout his four years of high school. They became homeless while fleeing Melva’s ex-husband, who has since been sentenced to 40 years in prison for murder.

Within two years, the mother and son reportedly lived in different shelters across five states before setting in Jacksonville.

“It’s been a rocky road, been a lot of hardships, but seeing myself here right now, about to graduate and go to college, it feels good knowing that all the stuff I’ve done, it was worth it,” Martin said.

He served as the class president for his grade for four years straight, from 9th grade to 12th grade. Now he will go on to college in the fall — and says that will be a big day for his family.

“As far as I know I’m the first person in my family to actually get a college degree,” he said.

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