MEXICO — Manuela Mitchell is the story of success.
While she credits the Migrant Education Tutorial and Support Services Program (METS) program with providing a base for her current achievements, it has been her hard work and dedication to improving life for herself and others that has carried her through each triumph.
As a student in the program through Wayne County, her family used to travel from the country Mexico for pear and apple picking seasons. Her family also traveled for migrant work in California to pick oranges and Ohio for corn. The work that she helped her family with also served as a roadblock to her education. She credited the local METS program with giving her the guidance and support to help chase her dreams.
From completing work sheets and working alongside METS tutors in addition to receiving English as a New Language services in school, Mitchell said she has felt indebted to the kindness, support and love from METS staff members.
“They are the main reason why I went to college,” she said. “As a farm worker kid traveling all the time, that’s all I knew, so I thought that was my life. I was 18 and still didn’t have enough credits to be a ninth-grader.”
Though encouragement with the METS program and a counselor at her high school in Sodus, she attended a program at SUNY New Paltz that helped her better prepare for college and obtain her GED. Mitchell went on to the University of Buffalo, experienced language barriers and life struggles before she finished an associate’s degree at a community college. She then earned a bachelor’s degree at Nazareth College and is now working toward her doctorate and administrative certificate.
As a certified special education, Spanish and English as a Second Language teacher working at Williamson Central School District, Paul Gugel, director of the local METS program through the Center for Instruction, Technology and Innovation (CiTi), said Mitchell has been a shining example of perseverance. Many former METS students have followed similar paths as Mitchell, Gugel said, and have become shining examples of hard work and dedication.
Mitchell said she just can’t say enough about the METS program.
“They are the ones that helped me realize there are other choices out there and that is a big thing, especially for kids who come here as farm workers and see their parents working,” she said. “Education is not a waste of time. This is a sacrifice to have a better future. Education really is in your own hands; everyday you’re learning something new.”