The Resendiz family celebrates homecoming at MCC, porque Scottville está en casa.

October 2, 2018

In back, from left, Laurie Resendiz, Angela Taylor. In front, from left, A.J., Justin.

The Resendiz family celebrates homecoming at MCC, porque Scottville está en casa.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief

#SpartanProud

SCOTTVILLE —As Mason County Central Schools celebrates homecoming week, the event has special meaning for the Resendiz family of Riverton Township. Last year the family chose to no longer live a migrant lifestyle, traveling back and forth from Texas to Michigan — as the family has done for generations. Instead, Laurie and Dino Resendiz decided to come home, to Scottville.  

When Laurie was a teenager, her father taught her a valuable lesson — working in farm fields is a tough life, stay in school. Laurie grew up as a migrant, moving back and forth from south Texas to west Michigan every year. When she was 14, her father, Noe Castillo, got a seasonal job as a supervisor at Springdale Farms in Mason County’s Riverton Township. Prior to that, the family had spent its Michigan seasons in the Hesperia area. 

Noe made Laurie and her siblings work the fields. “He didn’t want us to have that life, he made us work in the fields so we knew just how difficult it was. After three weeks of picking asparagus I knew I needed to be in school.”

Laurie was enrolled in Mason County Central Schools’ migrant program and entered MCC High School as a freshman. Though the family continued to travel back and forth between Michigan and Texas, MCC’s migrant program allowed continuity between her two schools, as administrators and teachers would keep in touch with each other.

Dino and his boys.

Laurie graduated from MCC in 1999. Her experience with MCC and the Scottville community led Laurie and her husband, Dino, to make the decision to no longer live a migrant lifestyle. “Scottville is the type of community that just grows on you,” Laurie says.

The kindness and loyalty shown by their employer, Bill Schwass also was a major part of their decision.

“My father died three years ago and my family was completely amazed that Bill Schwass (of Springdale Farms) flew to Texas for the funeral. Who does that? He showed loyalty to our family and we knew we had to be loyal to him. He offered my husband and I a home to live in year round and we accepted.”

Last year they settled in Mason County. They enrolled their children at MCC and Laurie eventually was hired by the school as a migrant English language instructional assistant in the upper elementary and middle school. She is also the school’s migrant data person, assisting, Angela Taylor, director of migrant and English learner services and programs .

Dino took on the job that his father-in-law had as a supervisor. He still travels a lot to the farms’ various fields in five counties, but they no longer go back to Texas in the winter.

“Living a migrant lifestyle was hard on our kids,” Laurie says. “They all started at Victory Early Childhood Center and moved up into the other schools. When we took them back to Texas, the schools were huge and they were afraid. My oldest was being bullied and would come home with bruises. We tried putting them in an academy in Texas but it wasn’t the same. It didn’t offer sports and my kids need to be involved in athletics. MCC offers sports and the kids enjoyed being part of the teams here. Their friends are also all at MCC. It’s a very loving and accepting school culture.”

Laurie and Dino’s three sons, Eric, Justin, and AJ, are model students, Taylor says. Eric is a freshman at the high school and is on the junior varsity football team. Justin is in fourth grade at the upper elementary and A.J. is in kindergarten at Scottville Elementary.

“A.J. was just tested for his English learning skills and passed by 100%,” Taylor says. “What this means is that Spanish is the primary language his family speaks at home but he is no longer categorized as an English learner but currently still has status as a migrant student.”

Taylor says that A.J. is an example of changing attitudes in the local migrant community towards being part of the school and community. “I credit this to the great staff and also our students we have here at MCC.”

Mason County Central currently has 37 migrant students enrolled in the district, along with 49 students who are classified as “English learners.” Taylor says English learners can be both migrant and non-migrant students. The current English learner students speak, as their primary language, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese (Mandarin), Russian, Finnish, Thai, and German.

“Being a migrant is a very prideful thing,” Taylor says. “They work very hard and they love this area. Most call this area home. Though many have been migrating here for generations, we have only recently seen some of the attitudes change.”

For example, after Laurie’s father died, she was the only member of her family who continued to migrate. This meant that her mother was no longer available to watch the children, which is a typical role for the grandmother (abuela in Spanish).

“I put A.J. into Victory and it was very hard for me, but it was the best thing I could have done and I don’t regret doing it,” Laurie says.

Laurie says she has seen a change in her husband as well. “Dino is a very shy man,” she says. “He knows English, but it doesn’t come easy to him. He says he’s always amazed how I can speak in front of groups and switch between English and Spanish. He works very hard and is gone a lot during the farming season. But, he also believes in working hard so our kids can have a quality education.”

The boys have dreams. Eric wants to get into the medical field, maybe radiology. Justin says he may want to be a doctor. A.J. is a tech wizard, Laurie says. The boys follow good mentors within their cultural community. In recent years, several migrant students who have graduate from MCC have attended Michigan State University, Texas A&M, West Shore Community College, and Diesel School of Indiana. Taylor says one alumnus just completed a doctorate degree in chiropractic and another is receiving a medical degree. 

The success of these students depends greatly on the caring staff at MCC, Taylor says.

“Laurie and her family are great examples for the rest of the migrant community,” Taylor says. “She makes my job easier. Many schools have difficulties recruiting migrant students, but because of the reputation we have built, we do very little recruiting.”

“As soon as a new migrant family moves into the area I make contact and tell them about Mason County Central Schools,” Laurie says. “There is usually one mother who represents all the other parents and they are understanding of the importance of their children getting a quality, consistent education.

“I never forget where I came from,” Laurie says. “That was me out there.”

“I think one of the reasons why migrant families pick MCC is that our migrant phones are never off. In order to have a strong program we must work daily and year around with their ‘other’ school placements which can include those within the United States and those around the world. Technology and advanced data bases have made this easier from a tracking point and from a collaboration stand point for all schools including Mason County Central.

“We also have strong migrant and English learner leaders at the Michigan Department of Education who support our areas locally and throughout the State of Michigan in additional to the four staff members at Mason County Central who work within these specific areas .”

Taylor says Michigan State University also has programs that are supportive of migrants in secondary education.

“In addition, our administrators, support staff and teachers work hard daily to scaffold their lessons and include additional supports to make learning easier for this group of identified learners,” Taylor says.

To help the migrant families be part of the community, the school will host a tailgate party for them during Friday’s homecoming football game. The families are then given complimentary tickets to the game. “We want them to see their fellow migrant students who are participating in the game,” Taylor says. “We want them to know that they are members of our community and we welcome them with open arms.”

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