What did 15-year-old Israel Kesania do over his summer vacation? He learned how to program robots with an iPad.

"I didn’t know I was into robots until now," Kesania told the Daily Globe at a science, technology, reading, engineering and math (STREAM) mobile learning lab July 16 at the Civic Center.

Kesania will be a freshman at Dodge City High School this fall. He was one of about 30 qualifying students who attended the free summer program designed to introduce young people to "new technology and activities students don’t get to see throughout the year, in a creative, engaging way to help them think critically and collaborate with one another," said STREAM educator Alex O’Nelio.

Leaders in the school district’s migrant department invited O’Nelio and fellow STREAM educator Lisa Blair to Dodge City this summer to roll out "a tool for this diverse group" between school semesters.

The Greenish STREAM mobile learning lab, based in Girard, will serve nine school districts across the state this summer, O’Nelio said.

This was the first time it has come to Dodge City, thanks to a literacy grant awarded to the district’s migrant department, which funded the three-day lab.

"We’re trying to create a catalyst so they don’t lose that connection to their thinking, academics, language and knowledge over the summer," Vinton said.

Kesania is one of several hundred students in the school district whose parents migrated here for meat plant or agricultural-related work. That is what qualified him for the Migrant Education Program.

More than half of 7,000 students enrolled in the Dodge City School District speak one of 17 different languages, and even more of the total population are qualified as at-risk of poverty, Vinton said.

Add to that the major cuts in federal and state education funding, Vinton said, and that is where local educators have identified a chasm between students who are given many opportunities to succeed in school and those who are not.

Traditionally, migrant workers follow the crop harvest throughout the country and are responsible for the cultivation and harvest of fruits and vegetables.

Here in Dodge City, most migrant workers are employed at the meat-processing plants, he said.

"It is a challenge for his department to identify all the students who qualify for the program, given the tenor of the nation about the issue of migration," he said. "We’re seeing a lot less movement because people are afraid of moving from one area to another."

National Beef offers assistance via forms that employees with children fill out that keep the school district abreast of new students living in the area who qualify for the program, Vinton said. The Cargill Corporation has yet to subscribe to that practice, he said.

O’Nelio said he is looking for further reach into the community for future STREAM programs, specifically to recruit more parental awareness of the programs.

"There are people who live in this area who qualify for these programs but don’t know what’s available," he said.

Those who have taken advantage of the opportunities the school district has made available for migrant students have proved to be blessings to their educators, Vinton said.

"We’re trying to make these kids become the best they can be," he said. "If we can give them the capacity to have their own dreams, or at least determine what they do not want to be, we’ve succeeded."


Editor's Note: This story is part of the Good News Initiative where the Dodge City Daily Globe will be highlighting a positive news story daily, sponsored by First Dental of Dodge City.

To send inquiries about possible positive news stories, email managing editor Vincent Marshall at vmarshall@dodgeglobe.com.