Anissa Perez, a first-generation college student attending West Hills College Coalinga, Firebaugh Center, is no stranger to hard work. Her parents migrated to the United States from Mexico and worked the Central Valley fields for much of Perez’s life.

“My parents worked hard for everything we have, and from a young age, instilled in me the importance of education. They told me getting my education will prepare me for a better career than one working outside in the heat,” Perez said.

Perez is studying business administration, and upon completing her associate degree, she hopes to transfer to Fresno State University to continue her business education.

“My goal is to work in international business or maybe work with the business side of airlines. I’ve always been fascinated with aviation,” she said.

Perez currently participates in the college’s College Assistance Migrant Program, which provides academic and support services, and financial assistance to eligible migrant students who are admitted and enrolled on a full-time basis within the first academic year. The program is federally funded, and designed for first-year college students from migrant and seasonal farmworker families. It has been available to students attending colleges within the West Hills Community College District since 2001 and offers pre-college transition and first-year support services to help students develop the skills they need to stay in college and graduate.

 “Students participating in CAMP learn strategies to complete the first year of college and transition to the second year to complete their college degree. The CAMP academic and student services improve the college degree achievements within CAMP students,” said Cecilio Mora, West Hills Commu­nity College District Director of Spe­cial Grants.

A unique feature of the program is the collaboration between the student, parents, and CAMP advisor.

“Through CAMP, student participants are mentored to improve college retention, completion, and to transfer. Students are encouraged to dream big, set goals, and develop leadership qualities,” said Mora.

“CAMP has helped me stay on track. I meet one-on-one with my CAMP advisor to go over progress reports to ensure I’m doing the things I need to do to be successful in school,”  said Perez.

One of the more exciting aspects of the program is the educational field trips student participants take.

“The field trips have been fun and are a nice chance to get out of Firebaugh and explore new things,” said Perez.  “This school year, we took a trip to the California Science Center, and it was interesting to see the aviation exhibit and learn about different aircraft and how they are used.”

Perez was recently accepted into the National HEP/CAMP Association Internship, which connects interns with accomplished leaders dedicated to improving the Latino community and promotes a commitment to civic engagement. Perez was one of six CAMP students selected throughout the United States into the National HEP/CAMP Association Internship program and will be interning in Washington D.C. with United Farm Workers throughout the 2022 summer.

“This opportunity means a lot to me, especially because I am from a small town. These types of opportunities aren’t always available to students like me,” said Perez. “During my internship this summer, I hope to learn more about how I can give back to my community and make a difference here in Firebaugh.”

“We are all proud of Anissa and impressed with both the person she is and with her educational achieve­ments,” said Mora. “She is an example and a motivator for her family and our CAMP farmworker population in our community.”

Bethany Azevedo-Matos

Dean, WHCC-Firebaugh Center