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Grant helps Drury launch program aimed at migrant workers, families

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., August 16, 2016 — Migrant workers and their families in southwest Missouri will soon see improved access to higher education thanks to Drury University’s College of Continuing Professional Studies (CCPS) and a five-year, $1.94 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

This College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) grant will be used to fund three full-time and three part-time staff members at Drury’s CCPS campus in Monett. The staff will be dedicated to identifying, recruiting and supporting students with the greatest need within the local Hispanic population. The grant will also fund classroom technology such as laptops, and living expenses such as childcare. A key focus of the program is leadership training, which will take place in partnership with the Monett Chamber of Commerce.

A public kick-off event to celebrate will be held from 4 to 7 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 1 at the Drury Monett campus, 400 4th Street.

“I’m extremely excited about the confidence the Department of Education has in Drury and our Monett site,” says Ann Saunders, Monett campus director. “These resources will help us make a positive imprint on the lives of many students and their families. Staff members are rolling up their sleeves and are ready to embark on this historic journey.”

How the Program Will Work

The Drury program is called “Somos” – Spanish for “we are.” The first cohort of Somos students will begin classes this month in Monett. Spots are still available in the cohort.

“Drury’s Monett campus has a long history of providing personalized, supportive education to the area’s first generation college students and the Hispanic community,” says Dr. Elizabeth Gackstetter Nichols, Professor of Spanish and Somos Project Director. “This grant provides the funding to allow the excellent advising, mentoring and educating currently going on in Monett to expand and work more efficiently. Providing specialized services to allow new first-year students to succeed at the college level will help these students proceed and persist to graduation.”

Through the Somos program, Drury faculty and staff will identify and provide outreach to qualifying students and their families. They will be able to provide access to and training on technology, provide relevant instruction in language and math, and help them earn a bachelor’s degree. In particular, the program will encourage degree completion in STEM, business and education fields. In order to lay the groundwork for a successful transition into the workforce, most second-year students will complete the Monett Chamber of Commerce Leadership Institute and complete an internship in the community.

A key component of Somos is addressing the cultural barriers that exist for students whose families may prioritize the immediacy of earning a paycheck over getting a degree. Somos includes activities that encourage families of students to be involved, and it builds a support system of peers so that students can help one another in continuing their education.

Meeting Workforce Needs

There are significant needs in the Monett area labor force for more university-educated Spanish-speaking workers, Nichols says. Local employers cite a need for Hispanic employees at management and executive levels.

Drury University at Monett is the only university in the area already integrated with the local migrant Hispanic community that serves nontraditional students and provides bachelor’s degrees in key areas such as STEM majors, business and management specialties, and elementary and secondary education. The Monett campus, under the College of Continuing Professional Studies, has grown since its 2007 inception, from six courses in 2007 to 25 courses serving approximately 150 students per semester today. Monett students choose from 15 majors and can complete their associate’s or bachelor’s degrees through a combination of seated, blended and online courses, providing a unique service in an underserved region.

The Somos program is funded entirely though the federal Department of Education CAMP grant. Drury will receive $373,047 in the grant’s first year, which does not require any local matching funds over its five-year lifespan. Drury will receive $1.94 million total over the five-year grant period.

“The CAMP program provides vital resources to help students pursue a higher education and all of the opportunities that come with it,” says U.S. Senator Roy Blunt. “I’m proud this grant award will allow the exceptional faculty and staff at Drury University to reach more students and their families, and enable them take the next step toward realizing the American Dream.”

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Media Contacts:

Dr. Elizabeth Gackstetter Nichols – Somos Program Director:  (417) 873-6925 or enichols@drury.edu

Ann Saunders – Drury Monett Campus Director: (417) 235-2007 or asaunders@drury.edu

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