VALDOSTA, GA (WALB) - "The American dream exists, but it will exist if you have a college diploma," said Department of Education Regional Director Israel Cortez.
Cortez knows a diploma can be difficult for some folks to get, but Valdosta State University is trying to help children of migrant workers make that dream a reality. The university just received a College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) grant.
"Those kids now will have an opportunity that probably would have never been, or would have never thought that they could have," Cortez said about the grant.
It's been 17 years since Israel Cortez first opened the door to the VSU admissions office, a moment that would change his life forever.
"They didn't want me to be in the fields side by side with them and working those long hours in the hot sun," Cortez recalled.
Cortez, who was a child of migrant workers, decided to continue his education at VSU. It took him 10 years, but 2002 he graduated with a degree in education.It was a major accomplishment for any child of migrant workers.
"An unbelievable emotion that you can not even express, you can not even imagine," Cortez described how he felt when he walked across the graduation stage many years ago.
Cortez said during his years at VSU he was constantly concerned with how he would pay for the next semester.
"Where am I going to get the money for my next semester? That would have been the worry, that was my worry," said Cortez.
Today, it's still one of the biggest problems migrant children face... until now.
The $2.1 million CAMP grant will pay for 25 students, each year for the next five years, to attend their first year at VSU.
"The excitement and the energy around this is spreading throughout our area," said admissions director Ryan Hogan.
Each of the students will receive scholarships covering the cost of room and board, tuition and fees, academic supplies, necessary transportation, and a small monthly stipend.
Cortez said this grant is invaluable to the institution and providing students with an opportunity to succeed.
VSU administrators hope to have the first 25 students enrolled by January 2017.
If you are interesting in applying for the scholarship you can contact Ryan Hogan at email@example.com.