Some neighborhoods are defined by their houses, buildings, and streets - the things that make them seem permanent. One neighborhood in Northeast Ohio is defined by its transiency.
Every spring about 300 migrant farm workers and their children
travel to the Hartville area. They live in migrant camps set up by farm owners. They're children attend the public schools, but they need some special services.

Listen:

The Fall can be kind of a sad time of year for lots of people in rural Hartville, Ohio. Driving along Duquette Street, another house or trailer goes dark nearly every night. The growing season is over and this neighborhood is closing down. The migrant families are leaving " headed to Florida, Texas, Mexico, or someplace else.

CYNDEE FARRELL: MOST OF THE WILL STAY UNTIL MID-OCTOBER, A FEW 'TIL THE END OF OCTOBER.

Cyndee Farrell is principal of Marlboro Elementary School and head of the district's program for migrant students...

CF: THEY'LL JUST NOT SHOW UP. SOMETIMES WE GET WORD, OH - WE'RE LEAVING TOMORROW. OTHER TIMES, IF THE WEATHER CHANGES OVER THE WEEKEND OR WHATEVER HAPPENS AND THEY JUST DECIDE, OH, WE'RE GOING TO LEAVE, THEY PACK UP AND GO. THEY KNOW THEY CAN COUNT ON US WHEN THEY RETURN, AND WE MAKE IT WORK.

The migrant neighborhoods in Hartville are now filled with Spanish speaking children. Twenty years ago, English speaking Jamaicans and black Americans lived in these same neighborhoods.
Many of the kids living in the rows of trailers that line farm fields today speak very little English. Farrell remembers when these students first started their spring migration...

CF: IT WAS PRETTY SCARY FOR ALL THE TEACHERS. WE'D GET A NEW STUDENT THAT WAS SPANISH ONLY. IT WAS HIT AND MISS, ORDER SOME BOOKS AND WITH THE HELP OF A TUTOR, GET BY. BUT THAT'S NOT WHAT WE'RE ABOUT, GETTING BY. SO WE'VE REALLY INCREASED OUR BI-LINGUAL WORK. HIRING TEACHERS THAT CAN SPEAK IN SPANISH AS WELL AS ENGLISH.

Many of the students leaving their Hartville neighborhoods this month will return in May, just a few weeks before the end of the school year. Farrell and others at the school say they bring diversity " and a whole new culture to the rural Hartville schools. Lisa Hull teaches reading to 4th and 5th graders...

LH: WE DON'T KNOW ABOUT THEIR CULTURE, AND THEN THEY BRING IT INTO US. WE'VE LEARNED A LOT AND A LOT ABOUT THEIR DIFFERENT LIVES. THEY'RE POLAR OPPOSITE OF WHAT WE'RE USED TO.

JG: WHAT DO YOU MEAN?

LH: THEY DON'T VALUE EDUCATION AS WELL AS I WOULD SAY A NORMAL, TYPICAL AMERICAN WOULD. THEY HAVE A DIFFERENT LIFESTYLE. THEY'RE EASY GOING. WE'RE INTO ALL THE POSSESSIONS AND STUFF, WHEREAS THEY DON'T REALLY CARE IF THEY HAVE ANYTHING.

The migrant children spend a lot of time with their families " some of them drive all the way from Mexico together " that's 50 hours in the car. They also spend lots of time having parties "
One person's birthday is usually reason for an entire migrant neighborhood to celebrate.

SOUND: KNOCKING ON DOOR...
WHERE IS EVERYBODY? HELLO. ANTONIO, GIVE ME A HUG. THIS IS THE PAPA. AND THIS IS GEORGINA. THIS IS JULIE. HI.
HI. WHERE ARE THE BOYS? THEY'RE UPSTAIRS...
THIS IS THE MOTHER...

It's Friday night and most of the members of the Soto Family have just come in from weeding lettuce in the fields. They've been migrating to Hartville from outside Mexico City for more than a decade. The three 'boys' all grown now and have become U-S Citizens. They've all graduated from Mexican high schools. 21-year old Alberto also wanted a diploma from Ohio's Marlington High School, so he stayed in Hartville on his own one winter.

ALBERTO SOTO: THAT YEAR, I SAW THE SNOW FOR MY FIRST TIME. HERE, IT WAS TOO COLD.

The whole family is gathered in the living room " all three brothers, two younger sisters. The mother and father don't speak English, but they sit and listen, as Alberto explains why he missed all the parties in Mexico and stayed in Ohio that year...

AS: I WAS ALMOST CRYING ON THE PLANE.
JG: WHY DID YOU THINK IT WAS IMPORTANT TO COME BACK?
AS: TO FINISH MY HIGH SCHOOL, I WAS IN 12TH GRADE. SO I THINK THAT WAS IMPORTANT FOR ME. TO GET MY DIPLOMA SO I CAN GET A BETTER JOB, SO THEY CAN PAY ME MORE. AND, EASY JOB. NOT TOO HARD LIKE IN THE FIELDS.

But after that first Ohio winter Alberto still hadn't learned enough to graduate. He quit school and has been working in the fields with his family since then. His 19-year old brother Marco Soto has also become an expert at weeding lettuce. Marco says it's hard, boring work...

MARCO SOTO: I THINK EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE THE SAME EVERY YEAR. IF YOU WANT TO STAY HERE FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, IT'S GOING TO BE THE SAME THING. AND YOU ARE NOT GOING TO LEARN ANYTHING. IF YOU GO TO ANOTHER JOB, YOU CAN LEARN MORE THINGS.

Now that the growing season is over in Ohio, Marco and his cousin are looking for another job. Educators say most migrants need more schooling to improve their lot. But foreign-born Hispanic students have the highest dropout rate in the U.S. The migrant neighborhoods in the Hartville-area are looking dark these days, but they'll spring back to life when the growing season begins again. The public school-teachers say they'll keep working with the students that return...




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