While many of Oregons children qualify as migrants, only one of them can be named the Oregon State Migrant Student of the Year. This year, that distinction has been given to a Woodburn student.
Yelitza Santiago Sanchez, a senior at Woodburn Academy of Art, Science and Technology, was selected out of multiple nominees from around the state, having been nominated by Maggie Vasquez, who works as the Woodburn High School home school contact.
Yelitzas parents, Raul Santiago and Rosa Sanchez, are farmworkers, having moved around for the first few years of Yelitzas life before settling in Woodburn when she was in second grade.
Yelitza said her parents are her biggest motivation to do well in school, bringing her out to work in the fields during the summers.
Its a reminder, Dont end up here because its hard work, she said. They want me to study. I will be the first in my family to go to college.
Yelitza, the oldest of four daughters, has a 3.69 grade point average, is a full International Baccalaureate candidate (meaning if she passes the IB exams and requirements she can enter college as a sophomore), dances on the Hi-Liners dance team and is active in National Honor Society. She also is an active volunteer. She has worked at Bauman Farms and AWARE Food Bank, as well as helped out at the districts migrant summer school at Nellie Muir Elementary School.
Its about helping the community, she said. (To get the award) you have to be a leader, to be involved. I just get along with people and am willing to share.
Yelitza and her parents were invited to the Migrant Program convention at Seaside last month, where she was surprised with her award.
I had no idea, she said. I knew I had gotten nominated but I thought, no way. It was so emotional.
The distinction provides Yelitza not only with a plaque, but also with an edge on her resume. Yelitza hopes to attend Willamette University in the fall and pursue a career in pharmacy.
Mariam Baradar, migrant coordinator for the Woodburn School District, said she wishes more migrant students could be recognized.
I believe every one of them should be acknowledged and rewarded, she said. Having to deal with a new culture, a new country, a new school system is a challenge and they overcome these barriers.
But, she added, Yelitza is a good representative of that population.
Yelitza is a very good example of a student who started in our school system and has been involved in leadership activities, Baradar said. She is going to continue her education and be a role model not only to her siblings but to other migrant students.