ONTARIO – The Oregon Migrant Leadership Institute is a program aimed at immigrant students to teach them how to lead their communities in various ways. The organization hosts three separate sessions, lasting a week, held at Treasure Valley Community College with the aim of helping students plan their futures and develop their characters. The camp can include a variety of schools, including students from the area to areas such as Hermiston, Umatilla, Boardman, Irrigon, and Milton-Freewater.

“We must continue to nurture others and support their goals,” said Greg Contreras, coordinator for the Oregon Migrant Leadership Institute.

The program concluded its last session earlier this month with the second session of high school students, and organizers intend to continue the program annually.

This year was the fourth year that started 2018. There were three separate week-long sessions with approximately 12-15 college mentors. The first course is for the middle school students, the second and third courses for the high school students.

During the sessions, students are usually placed in the TVCC dormitories during the program. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, officials only allow a third of students to stay in the dormitories. Staying in the on-campus accommodations gives students a chance to feel the college experience and meet new friends, Contreras said.

Oregon Migrant Leadership Institute four-time mentor Cassandra Sanchez is enjoying the experience.

“What makes me participate every year is the students,” she said. “Coming back to OMLI and seeing my students grow is undoubtedly one of my favorite things to do.”

There were several topics dedicated to each day of the program, with activities related to the day’s theme. The first day of the program was the topic of relationship building; overcome obstacles on the second day; Day three was Tuesday; Day four focused on higher education; Career day was the focus of the fifth day; and the program culminated in a feast day on the sixth day. Some of the unique activities that correlated with these topics were white water rafting, a magazine cover showcase where students design a magazine cover of themselves as leaders in their future careers, an etiquette dinner, and community projects, like the production of blankets for the DOVE project, which supports victims of domestic violence.

There have been a variety of other activities that the program uses to support the growth of the younger generations of migrants. The overall experience provides an opportunity for students to learn how to lead their community, attend college, and be successful in a new profession.

While mentioning the importance of the program in her eyes, Sanchez said, “OMLI is not just a ‘fun summer camp’ for the students. During my four years of mentoring, I’ve seen students grow and become successful college students. During this OMLI 2021, I noticed a former mentee of mine on the TVCC campus. I went to her for a lunch break and she beamed that she was going to be a freshman this fall. She thanked me, previous mentors from previous years, and especially OMLI for motivating me to go to college. She said, “I never imagined going to college, but OMLI made me feel motivated and empowered to get an arts degree.” To be honest, it enriched my day and success stories like them are the reason why this program has to be continued! “